….. and Arteta saw that
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
I understand that I might be preaching to the choir here, as Mikel Arteta was probably the one who initiated that performance last night, but if I was one of his staff I’d make him watch the Wolves game again then this one, and play spot the difference.
Rapid Vienna aren’t great. Got it. I actually think that this is irrelevant in this case. The difference was a huge attitude change.
The EL team have been playing that way all season, right? Somewhat. Not like this though. They’ve been playing like this in spurts but not for 93 minutes.
The biggest and most important difference was in those that have been playing for the first team.
Dani Ceballos did more with his 30 minutes than he has since August. I was throwing peanuts at the TV when he came on as I felt it was a fantastic opportunity for Azeez. Then I figured out that Arteta wanted to give him (and Willian) a chance to change their attitude as they will be around the first team. Ceballos had two shots and created two great chances. If he could do this regularly then this is 6 shots and 6 chances created per game. Sounds like somebody you’d want to keep.
I’ve been chewing the fat with a few over the last year that Lacazette isn’t a natural CF. He doesn’t seem to know how to shake his man. All of a sudden we see a deeper Lacazette. We see energy. We see quick feet and most impressively we see multiple moments of subtle creativity. The fat chewing was mostly prompted by the thought that he shoots better than he finishes. Step forward last night.
Willian wasn’t as energized but I spotted a change in him too. In the 68th minute, he was on the left. He had two players in front of him. He turned to pass it backwards (his Arsenal mode) then for some reason he stopped, changed his mind and tried to zig zag dribble between the two defenders. It didn’t work but my joy was in the fact that he tried.
Pepe’s problem is different. Consistency for an entire game. He was a constant threat all night.
Cedric didn’t just pick up his pay check. He pushed and drove and created. Seemed unsatisfied with being labelled as ‘ok.’
The biggest plus I’ll leave for the ‘positives’ below as I don’t think that this was an attitude change.
So, why did we see our best performance of the season in the least important game?
Something was said, and said in no uncertain terms. Something along the lines of…
‘ I organized the mess I found when I came in. I improved many of you and the team and we won the FA Cup. Now I’m under the pressure you were under. You owe me.
The window is coming up and we aren’t standing still. You have only a few games to convince me that I shouldn’t replace you. If I do, many of you will never again have the chance to play for a team with our level of success. We have Callum, Pablo, Gabi, Emile and Thomas returning and more and more Academy players knocking. Your time is short. We need goals from CB’s at set plays, goals from midfield and more goals upfront. We need creativity from everybody who steps into the final third. If you can’t supply this don’t be surprised when you aren’t involved.
In order to do this, you only now pass backwards and sideways if there is purpose. We go forward. You win your duals or you explain to me why you can’t. You excite the fans or we get booed off. On Monday, we will be 11 points off first or 5 points. You choose. Your choice.’
Well that was fun writing that. We all wish that we could give the team a piece of our mind just once.
It was obvious. Arteta changed his message. Places are up for grabs.
We played arguably our best ever attacking performance in a nothing game. The concern is that the first team revert to fear. Long, hopeful aerial passes to meek forwards. Horseshoe football devoid of risk. The hope is that Arteta found a new addiction tonight and that he is bold moving forward. That he drops those incapable of playing this dynamic style. It’s all in the message, the expectation.
One of the greatest human discoveries is how much you can achieve if you really care. A coaches job is to extract that.
Arsenal were very good against Rapid Vienna….. and Arteta saw that. This is important as I think he needs convincing to be bold.
- How can I put this? Hmmmm… Here it is. Bar defensive positional awareness (which he could be taught), Ainsley Maitlind-Niles can do everything that Xhaka and Ceballos can do in central midfield plus at least 7 things that they can’t or don’t. I’m getting bored of pleading. It’s like this…. on the back of that double espresso performance we could revert to 3-4-3 vs Spurs with Xhaka and Ceballos, play deep and hang on but we can’t play expansively with those two and win. If you play two or all of Partey, ElNeny and Maitlind-Niles, you can do either. Ceballos tries hard to look athletic but has clear limits. In the 73rd minute he countered on the dribble, ran 35 yards and got caught. Lost it. Maitlind-Niles would’ve been gone. Watch Smith-Rowe’s goal. AMN dissects the midfield, sprints 30 yards across the field to overlap Pepe. Even if Ceballos continues showing more forward thrust, he can’t physically do that. As for Mr Granit, he wouldn’t even attempt what AMN can do athletically.
- Pepe on the left and Nelson/Willian on the right was smart with Eddie playing. They went on the outside which could’ve meant tap ins for Eddie which suit his game. Almost did too.
- The fans returning was more than just a surreal experience for them. The players were affected, Im sure. Lacazette went from sulking in the last few months to having his name sung. When Balogun came on it dawned on me that he’s probably never played in front of a crowd who even sing songs about players. Gives him a taster. Will make him work harder to make that happen for himself. Listening to fake crowd noise I enjoyed the ironic cheering of real fans, too. Welcome back!
- I like Pablo Mari. I like Callum Chambers too. I prefer both of them to all our CB’s bar Gabriel. Just a thought… people rarely question two right footed CB’s playing together. Why can’t Mari play with Gabriel?
- When was the last time an Arsenal forward shot from 25 yards plus let alone scored? This should encourage others.
- It wasn’t that we won. It was the return of hope. The hope of goals. I felt that we could score every time we went forward. That is literally the complete opposite emotion that I’ve been feeling for the last month.
- We all know that Maitlind-Niles is chilled. Does this vibe go against him with Arteta? Mikel Arteta is intense. The opposite. I wonder if this vibe is the reason Arteta has rarely trusted him? I have felt somewhat sheepish to say what I’m about to say for a while now but I’m emboldened now by his performance. Ainsley Maitlind-Niles at his best makes football look easy. When I see this in a player I simultaneously realize that this is a player that has a far higher ceiling than the majority. Got that off my chest now.
- Lacazette as the 8/10 hybrid may turn into a Thomas Muller situation. A player who isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as others, yet can be highly effective. I wonder.
- Those coaches reading this will have observed the training session that just occurred. We repeatedly played up, back and through. Or closer to the truth…up, back and accelerate/penetrate. It worked beautifully and was responsible for the majority of our attacks.
- The corners and crosses were much better. This is vital when you are not in form as you can win on a moment rather than through dominating.
- Just one today as last night was such a positive. I notice that our manager responds with negative body language when Pepe loses the ball more so than with any other player. This will be seen by many, especially when you are sitting on the bench. It may be part of the reason why others don’t want to take risks. They don’t want to disappoint him.
- Our third goal is probably our best of the season. One touch, automatic, instinctive and unstoppable. We can only hope that we can replicate this moving forwards.
- Take a read of my ‘Transfer Targets’ piece that drops today on Le Grove. I wrote it a few weeks ago and I’m delighted to hear that Arsenal have interest in 3 of the players I suggest we buy. One is Yves Bissouma at Brighton. His ability to play the DM role without help could unleash players like AMN, Partey and Willock. The perfect modern day midfielder that Arsenal have needed since Song had a dominant run of strong form at Arsenal.
Arsenal have been playing recently like they aren’t accountable. The fans returning will have reminded them that they are.
Arteta talking post match about Lacazette’s goal was hugely encouraging. He said, ” What I liked was that on his first action he took the ball forwards.” Arsenal need to progress quickly. To go forwards. In order to do that they need to literally go forwards. With the ball. On and off the ball. Play with the scamper that they did last night. Energy. Belief. Ditch the fear.
As crowds continue to return and grow the team needs to know that the fans can help them if they feel energized. For this to happen we lean on Mikel Arteta to ensure that whatever he said to them this week wasn’t just a chest thumping speech.
We need a permanent attitude change.