So in the end no significant damage done. One of our tougher fixtures out of the way, played on the back of a number of injuries, and we are still joint top.
I must say that I really thought we were getting on top of these injuries but it seems to be rearing its ugly head again. It is entirely possible that we will fall just short in this title race because of injuries so it is really getting to the point where greater examination is required. Is it the types of players we buy? Is it that we don’t have a medical team as up to date with the latest sports science? Is the medical team actually fine but are not allowed to implement the regimes they want by the manager at the expense of a training regime he prefers?
Whichever, there comes a point when so much “bad luck” over such a long period of time has to be re-considered to a possible upgrade of incompetence, especially if it is the “n’th” season in a row and becomes the key factor that stops us winning a title we could have secured.
Now onto the game. We were poor in many parts of it but in terms of chances created and clear goal-scoring opportunities we were generally on an equal footing, so in the end I don’t think a draw overly flattered us. It was however one of those games where we again looked dis-jointed and by and large you felt we had been outplayed by the end of it. The injuries and lack of options from the bench didn’t help of course, but we did field a pretty decent side that still looked second best to Spurs in general play. Does this worry you?
Looking for the explanation to this dis-jointed performance, (and others before it), seems a tricky one but I feel a pattern is emerging. Identifying a pattern is the first stage to being able to put it right. Actually the game last year at WHL had a very similar feel to it. In that game we looked second best (and didn’t hold out for the draw in the end) but actually had a better team to choose from with better options from the bench then. I have a take on this regular return to disjointed performances………….but some of you will not like it…………and it is mainly concerned with the striker……….sorry!!
Looking at Pocchetino I feel he is one of the breed of new younger managers and is cut from the same cloth as the likes of Guardiola, Klopp, and Simeone. Obviously he doesn’t have the same players to work with that Guardiola does, but I feel he adheres to the high pressing game that Guardiola’s teams also play. This style of play seems to cause us problems, yet if we are coached to be the slick passing team that is the apparent hallmark of Arsene Wenger sides then why do we not overcome it?
The answer for me comes from looking at how the high pressing sides set up and what its potential weaknesses could be. The high pressing sides have to play a high defensive line once they have you defending. This compresses the space and makes it much harder to pass it out from the back. Also the high pressing teams like to face towards the opposition goal but the weakness of this is if you can turn them around and make them chase back. To do this you need to be able to by-pass the first couple of players pressing high and also have the ability to get behind the high defensive line.
The type of striker you are playing, for me, becomes very important in overcoming teams that want to play this way. It needs to be a striker who is moving into positions to offer himself as an option to the defence, but also one that can threaten the large space behind their high defensive line. As such I don’t think we have the right player in the squad at the moment for this, but unfortunately I still feel the quicker Theo is the better option.
Ollie just doesn’t have the pace and this allows the high pressing teams to lay their high defensive line without fear. I hope FGG doesn’t mind but I will use part of one of his comments if I may.
Even though Giroud missed some clear chances today, I think we would’ve really struggled had he not been playing. Spurs really pressed us and often forced us to play long. Imagine if all those long balls had been aimed at Walcott! Giroud’s finishing may be questionable but his ability to turn long balls into an attacking platform is second to none.
You see for me rather than that statement being a solution I see it as the problem. Firstly I don’t think Giroud secures the possession from balls coming his way as often as is made out when positively referring to him as being excellent at holding the ball up. Secondly long balls to him from defence are always going to be less accurate than a ground pass when played over a similar distance, and as such it is more likely the opposition defence will win it back and just recirculate the attack again. Thirdly, should we really be thinking along the lines of the best striker option for us is the one that is best at receiving long balls? Are we that team?
People can throw individual stats at it as much as they like, and feel free to do so, but I will make a point that I have made before. Regardless of whether he scores or not the whole team just seems to play better with the quicker Theo. Most of the performances we have been happy with have been with Theo starting as striker, while I feel most of the disjointed performances (not all) where we are scratching our heads are when Ollie starts. I just think the qualities of Sanchez, Ozil and Cazorla are more apparent when they play with the quicker Theo.
This is not a slight on Giroud. He is what he is for me, and I strongly feel he is an excellent impact sub at this level, nothing more or less. I feel Ollie is both under-rated and over-rated in equal measure. Interestingly I feel Theo is both Under-rated and over-rated as well, and he still doesn’t do enough for me in offering himself as a quick option when we are defending. He doesn’t move enough into the positions where he could receive an accurate ball (rather than a hit and hope one) and make sure the team has that “out ball” when we have broken down an attack against a high pressing team with a high defensive line. This is more sad for me because Ollie just naturally lacks pace to do this while Theo has it but lacks application for me.
I know Wenger’s hand’s were tied in his options for striker in this game, but part of methinks if Theo was fit he would still have started with Ollie. Impossible to know for sure but that would concern me. At the moment I still feel Theo is our best option to start games, but still think we need a new worldy as it stands, else we will continue to struggle against teams overseen by this new breed of manager with this high pressing high defensive line playing style.
Written by GoonerB