It’s now time to really see the true work of Unai and the players. By Tom
In truth the lack of confidence in the start of Arsenal’s game against City and Chelsea that has been the concern, but now we can see the real practise being given the chance to breathe.
The team did well to come back to 2-2 against Chelsea. Yes Chelsea sat back and gave us time after being 2 nil up (but teams don’t go 100% press for 90mins). Iwobi (who I tipped to play in my last article) did okay in the game, with a high 6 rating making him actually one of our top 3 best players on the day. I thought Torriera would start but some credit for Unai on picking Xkaha. In truth, that position (like Cech’s, like Bellerin, like Ozil, like Monreal, like Auba…) is his to lose (or keep). We can’t expect Torriera to just come in because he is a CDM. But now it must be said Xkaha is struggling with his game. In fact, many look to be struggling – maybe remnants of last season. Yet new roles are not offering new belief; Ozil isn’t embracing his new responsibility (which I feel should suit him), Bellerin has a long way to go still but is struggling – albeit it less struggle of his role and responsibility then last season, Mkhi’s output isn’t of the level yet of what’s expected…
Looking at the goals against.
Bellerin followed Willian all the way to the centre of the pitch (with the press in mind) but his ball to Jorginho allowed Jorginho to thread a ball out to Alonso, who won in a foot race against Mkhit. Was Bellerin at fault for trying to ‘over’ press? Personally, when you have slow wingers (Mkhit) and fast wing backs (Alonso), Bellerin should be thinking about defence (even if Willian is not involved) more so.
But beyond this I feel more insightful evaluation needs to be made. The defensive line was high – not by mistake but by orders from Unai. The reason being that we squeeze the space Chelsea play in. But that then needs to be followed by forward pressing. Bellerin would argue he was doing just that. But Ozil wasn’t. He should have been on Jorginho. Likewise, the high line for the second goal meant we played the game in Chelsea’s half (territorial battle) but again we didn’t press and Azpilicueta was allowed to play a simple ball over the top.
In the second half Unai had to deal with the lack of execution of his ideas and so Arsenal dropped off – resulting also in Chelsea controlling the game. Equally Arsenal was not able to maintain the high press and had no real outlet when they did have the ball. Ozil wanted time on the ball to look up and find killer passes and was dispossessed, Mkhit didn’t seemed available enough and faded as the game went on, Iwobi wanted to turn and move and shouldn’t be for me the one who offered hope from those 3 but did (and credit to his tenacity). Auba’s head dropped after his misses and as the game went on, he looked embarassed to be on the pitch but kept working.
I do like to look at what our opposition fans think of the game to observe 360 degrees of thought and a fair few pragmatic fans felt regardless of the domination in the first 20 mins, Arsenal should have been 2-5 up. The same concerns came out of it as what I feel we are concerned with when it comes to Arsenal. Runners were not followed; the defence was too static at times of defending (I’m telling you old John Terry wouldn’t have stood for that…’). So it’s a clear sign that time to understand the ideas is needed for both teams.
To work out truthfully how this all will unfold for Arsenal we need to understand the man in charge. Since Unai has come in, he talks about the performance when asked about targets (media hoping to see the words ‘challenge’, ‘top 4’ or even ‘cup finals’ spoken). The squad has looked in good spirit at our training ground and on tour. New signings have offered a new spark. But for Unai to be a success he needs to get the trust of the players. That’s done by allowing the players to believe their skills are a part of the new ideas. And before Unai can get them to take on new roles (forwards defending, defenders playing), he needs them to release some of the comfort of what they only want to do – again that comes down to trust that this will reward the individual in their output/development/career (Wenger did this well). In any line of management in any industry this is one of the hardest parts of a new regime change – time is your only friend…If you get given it.
I understand the idea of playing out from the back. The alternative is kick it up top and win the second ball. But that’s 50-50 and doesn’t offer enough strategic planning. Plus, players are more athletic (since the days of Wenger demanding more fitter players then their opponents) and so using that to focus the ball to pass and play makes sense. But now we have a problem with how to do this. For now, the balance still needs to be found. Defending needs to be done from the front back. If we play a high line, it’s because we need to squeeze space and time for the opponents at all passages of play.
If our attack want to attack then territorially we need to be higher up the pitch as a team unit and being higher up the pitch means our attack needs to press (otherwise our defence is just defending with no cover high up from our goal – making them look stupid).
As it stands, Unai wants to drill them defensively and with the attacking philosophy of Wenger (trade Chance for Chance) in close thoughts of the players, it’s hard for players to take on these ideas early doors. It could be that we beat West Ham (I predict 4-1) and everyone will say ‘well yes of cause, that’s expected…’ But we need to start from a place where our competition is not the City/Chelsea week in week out – if we are to see improvement to take on one day the City/Chelsea’s of the league.
Top 4 being my target, it’s still a possibility But Arsenal need to learn fast from the errors they are making. It’s hard enough that we don’t have the players for the tactics (just yet) – and it’s hard enough that some players lack conviction in their roles. But Arsenal fans need to be supporting the work, the players, the manager, the club. If Unai will want to trust his players, and receive trust back from them – why would we not want to trust change (that so many wanted may I add) with purpose of time and direction?