Should Arteta drop this futile crossing in the air tactic?

Stop Crossing The Ball In The Air by Dan Smith

Ironically, I wrote an article last week about fans feeling the need to make players scapegoats. Then Xhaka does the one thing against Burnley which …. made him a scapegoat.

I felt so sorry for Arteta…

As a former player himself, he’s more than enough aware that confidence is such a fragile thing.
He just needs a win and who knows? Something to build on. He would have looked at Sunday as an ideal chance to get three points, then his midfielder does that.

I can’t defend Xhaka, and he has to accept that people will yet again question his mentality. In an era where VAR is dissecting every last detail it’s not like he was trying to rough up the opposition on the sly, thinking he would get away with it. Like Pepe at Leeds, he simply lost his head.

Would we have lost without the red card? Probably not.

Should it paper over all cracks? No!

In that sense it’s been a blessing for our manager, with more focus on the sending off then a below par performance.

Some gooners have said we were playing well up until Xhaka grabbed his opponents throat but that depends the standards you set for the team. Having a couple of tame efforts on target at home to a side who were in the bottom three should be standard, not something we view as proof of progress.

One man’s mistake shouldn’t give a free pass to the likes of Aubameyang.

Most importantly, to find a solution we have to identify the problem. My stance remains that we picked a man with zero experience to be in charge, so it would be harsh to sack him less than a year later for having no experience.

I also think under the current ownership you would just end up repeating the cycle every 12 months.
Wake up some of you, an Allegri isn’t going to work for Stan Kroenke. If that was our ambition, we wouldn’t have swapped Arsene Wenger for Unai Emery.

As much as I want our former captain to succeed, I accept it’s a results business and under that criteria I couldn’t argue if a change was made (just don’t expect a world class coach to arrive).
My line in terms of when a boss has to go is ‘once it’s clear he’s lost the dressing room’.

Not saying that’s right or fair. Players shouldn’t have that much power, but history shows, once you lose a dressing room, you’re in trouble.

This time last Xmas it was clear Uni Emery had lost the dressing room. I don’t get that sense yet under the current regime. The squad has lost its confidence of course. But that’s not the same as not having faith in your coach.

What Arteta’s job now is to find a way to lift morale. Because he’s a rookie, we don’t know if he can do that. When he was learning off Pep Guardiola, the task of improving confidence never really arose, it tends to not be an issue when your winning every domestic trophy.

My concern is (as someone who wants Arteta to succeed) is it’s often said that when a manager is under pressure, they start to make strange decisions.

We for years have been a team who would dominate possession and had to work out ways to unlock a defence. We have resorted to aimlessly crossing the ball into the box with zero thought.

It’s a lack of bravery. Instead of taking risks, everyone is just playing it safe, scared to fail.
Arteta isn’t helping by ordering them to not play through the middle because if you’re a Sean Dyche, you want the Gunners going out wide.

I was hoping that after the North London Derby Arteta was just focusing on the positives, not wanting to be critical of his players in public.

My worry is after the weekend it’s clear he thinks this is our best method of scoring. It’s hard to work out where he would have got this ‘crossing in the air’ from. It’s not like at Man City that’s their style of play.
Or even when he played under Arsene Wenger, who trusted his players to have the patience and belief that eventually you wear down teams by keeping the ball and eventually will unlock the door.

Here’s a stat for you (I’m sad I counted this). Arsenal scored 45 goals in Arteta’s first campaign.
Do you want to know how many were headers? 3! 3 from Auba.

So every time you see a cross in the air and a player heading it at goal, you know that’s not our strengths. Quick movement, running off the ball, one touch passing is. So it begs the question, why now?

I hope our manager simply feels there is a lack of confidence and this is a way to end our goal drought. Hopefully one of his assistants will take him to one side and suggest dropping it and quickly.

I bet after writing this, Auba scores a hat trick of headers! I would never be happier to be proven wrong!

Be Kind In The Comments

Dan Smith

Tags Aubameyang tactics Xhaka


  1. I think its time EMR a run in the team instead of willian Balugan instead of Nketia can’t do any worse Ps need to buy Zaha from palace

  2. I truly believe we would have won that game with eleven men on the field.I think Xhaka had improved for a while since Arteta took over,I was a fierce critic of his pre Arteta,I am probably now his fiercest,he has gone back to the mediocre talent that he was and how he let Arteta down with that stupid throat grabbing incident leaves me dumbfounded I hope i never see him in an Arsenal shirt again.

    1. were debating about whether we MIGHT have beaten a relegation side, in our relegation fight… I think we need to really realize what we are talking about. To say this is below Arsenal standards doesnt even come close to expressing how far we’ve fallen.

  3. Arteta uses trial and error method. He doesn’t know how to turn things around. Guys like you who can predict the future, says it’s not good to sack him because we can follow the same cycle every 12months. I don’t buy that story because those who knows their story can turn things around. Arteta has run out of ideas, so it’s time to seek fresh minds somewhere else

    1. I don’t know the future but I have an opinion based on evidence
      When we replaced Wenger did we get a world class manager – no
      We replaced Emery – did We get a world class manager – no.
      So if we replaced Arteta – would we get a world class manager- still no

    2. News is that Big Sam may move to WBA, then who will keep us up? Big Sam deserved one last chance at a big club, really an underrated manager, never respected for his work. He would have tightened the defense and would give a knock out punch to any primadonna misbehaving with him.

  4. Hi Dan. Agree with your point about crossing. Suspect Arteta thinks we lack guile to play through the middle, but possess a bit more flair on the flanks. However, it only works if you’ve someone like Giroud in the middle. Irony is that when we had him, we were reluctant to cross – even when low, narrow blocks made it difficult to penerate. Inclusion of a fit Smith-Rowe might change things. Lacks experience, but he takes the ball in pockets on the half-turn and threads quick forward passes. Another alternative is to include Ainsley in a three in midfield as his runs beyond the strikers are hard to track and make space for the forwards. Any combination of Partey, Elneny and Ceballos beside him ought to offer sufficient protection to enable his forays.

  5. How ironic that Xhaka spoke of discipline, organisation and respect in the Burnley programme notes…

    With regards to the crosses, desperate times call for desperate measures, Dan!! Eventually someone will get on the end of one 😄 We need something, anything, a slice of good fortune to help ignite that spark and kickstart our season… we can’t sink any lower, surely!! Although I’m worried about tonight.. Southampton are fast starters, whereas we don’t usually turn up until the 2nd half!!
    Please footballing gods, crack us a smile!!

  6. I don’t buy “losing the dressing room”. If the manager isn’t in charge then the club is in trouble. At United Mourinho struggled with player power, at Spurs no player is going to cross him. Which club is in better shape ?

    1. Man United don’t seem able to discipline their players, but I think Spurs owner is more hands-on than Man United’s and Kroenke

      If the Gunners can repeat the same spirit they showed at the Burnley game, we’d most likely defeat Soton. As long as we don’t have any disciplinary issue in that game

  7. Unai Emery had Arsenal third after 8 games but he then had a poor run in the next 6 games. Emery’s poor English meant he sounded like a clown and he could not save himself. Artetas run of poor form is worse than Emery but Arteta has 15 years living in England so like Ole at Man U can explain away the poor results. Hasenhuttl lost 0-9 to Leicester but he too spoke good English so survived. Now Southampton are top 4.
    It’s still possible MA can turn things around. The defence is solid and the strike force at least on paper is the best in the league. The next three games will determine Arteta’s future at the club. Beating either Southampton or Everton and beating City in the Carabao will be enough to keep MA on through to Feb at least. Failure to win either of the PL games and especially if we lose to City in the cup and MA is gone. One thing I will say about Arteta is his absolute integrity during these dark hours. He has never made excuses or blamed the players or management and has remained convinced the team can win trophies. I like that total commitment grit and bloody minded attitude. I hope the team will show these qualities the next ten games starting with Southampton tomorrow morning local time.

    1. “the strike force at least on paper is the best in the league”, its not even close. Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea, Leicester, arguably Southampton, all have better strike forces. Its a consistent theme with Arsenal supporters, they seem to genuinely believe their players are better than they really are. This means the manager is always being judged against unrealistic expectations.

  8. No, because the crosses we made at the Burnley game are very good and we actually made more ground crosses. Liverpool also rely on crosses from their attacking wingbacks to score and they didn’t have any CAM to win EPL/ UCL

    Ozil broke the assist record at Arsenal by making many crosses, but we tend to wait for through balls after that season. Aubameyang should technically be able to convert the crosses, but he’s so reluctant to do air duels

    We just need to get a towering target man who’s willing to be a super sub, to change our tactic in the second half if we can’t score from open play in the first sixty minutes. And if possible a better winger who can consistently get past the opponents

  9. It’s because we’re shit at every other avenue of attack. When your defence and midfield spend most of the game ignoring open players and passing backwards and sideways because they don’t seem to have any vision and they’re scared, the opposition have enough time to get into a position to make passing the ball near the box by our hapless wingers a lost cause.

  10. Problem with the crosses is they come when the opposition is set around there box and waiting for the cross.
    What we need is runners in behind to be crossing when there defence is turned and there would be more goals.
    But that’s what we miss and when I so see someone run behind they rarely get the pass made towards them which in turn puts them off making those runs.

  11. Dan
    I have watched Arsenal for 62 years and can say with honesty we are playing, since the start of the season, the worst football I have ever seen since I stated going and watching them. My worry is words, Arteta is living on ‘words’ to blame others and big himself. The reality is lots of destructive grudges, poor tactics as you suggest, and finally terrible man-management. I feel many supporters are hypnotised by Arteta’s, speeches and words. Life is deeper than ‘I am OK…they are the problem’. I don’t know how Arteta gets away with. Arteta ‘talk the talk’…10/10. Arteta ‘walk the walk’…0/10.

  12. I agree with you completely, crossing the ball especially in the air is a really bad idea with the relatively small forward players we have.
    I simply need to be braver and less predictable by incorporating more shots from distance, take ons by skillful players like Willian, Pepe, Ceballos etc.

    Right now it just looks like everyone is scared of losing posession.

  13. Surprisingly, over crossing the ball is what made me hate Man Utd with all my heart….

    And here we’re!!!! Talking about relying on crosses to score goals.

    That tactic will never work at Arsenal. Why it worked for Man Utds of old is because the ball was always recycled very fast. Even with poor headers of the ball having these many crosses repeatedly and fast always gave them a chance.

    Now for us our crosses, although many, are far apart, and teams have already regrouped even when you whip them in they are useless. JUST LAUGHABLE STUFF TO ME.

  14. Yet another excellent article Dan with your usual detailed explanations for your thoughts. I agree on the playing style being unproductive but as ever believe that the real reason is that our players are , collectively, just nowhere near good enough.
    I also firmly believe there is huge fan reluctance, again collectively, to accept this fact. Only realists choose, and it is choice( since the eyesight of realists is not superior to non realists) to acknowledge the truth as it is, not as they would wish it to be.
    The only realistic solution is time and patience and, once again, only realists have both. The manager will not be going anywhere, despite the fanciful fantasies of some on here. And as you said so clearly, anyone who seriously believes that such as Allegri would ever accept the job under Kroenke is in la -la land.

  15. Personally I think it is high time to dump futile Arteta. Anything less than a win tonight is unacceptable.

  16. Anyone who loves Arsenal Fc should understand that we MUST first dismantle completely before genuine rebuild could begin, there is no doubt that the Coach and Edu know what they are doing, both are our former players and therefore are emotionally invested in the club, therefore patience will guide us in what ever we do or say.

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