Possession Football with a High Press is Arsenal’s route back to the top … if we can afford it!

July 9, 2019

The champions of 4 out of the 5 Major leagues have the most possession-based football in that league. – City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and PSG.
Only Juve is behind two rivals, namely Inter and Napoli.

So I would say that at the moment, possession football is winning. The philosophy being that if you have the ball, you can’t be hurt by the opponent and you can hurt your opponent. Now, you have to use the ball effectively and this is the key.

Interestingly in the EPL, the top 5 teams have the highest possession rate in this order: City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal.

You cannot play possession football all the time – I think all the teams mentioned above (except maybe PSG) are adept also at the high press. Again, if you get the ball in the opponent’s half, you can hurt them quickly because they have less time to react to the loss of the ball and if you do a good use of the ball, you will score or at least create chances. Barcelona is amazing at the doing that and so is City. Bayern and PSG slightly less so.

Basically, I believe Emery is more keen to turn us into a mix between Atletico and maybe Bayern type of team. The team that impressed me the most was the last Bayern Munich team that won the CL with Heinckes. They were lethal on transition and were good at possession but they were so balanced and so cohesive. The wings were very active – the mid was solid – the forward hard working and clinical. The only weak point was Dante who had that year an amazing season. Bayern is trying to recreate such a team now.

Possession football is very popular and effective these days. However, my feeling is that the teams with high possession are also the most effective at getting the ball back (hence the high possession as well). Unsurprisingly they are also among the richest clubs. The players in these squads can also adapt to these demanding systems – look at what De Bruyne, David Silva and Sergio Aguero do at City and what Sane, Wijnaldum do at Liverpool or Rakitic, Verratti…

We don’t have confirmed players like that but I am hopeful over Maitland-Nyles, Lucas Torreira, Guendouzi, Iwobi and Kolasinac within our squad so things are not as gloomy as some may believe. We will only know how strong we will be for sure when the transfer window closes.

RC78


Did Unai Emery train the Pep out of the Arsenal players last season?

July 8, 2019

It seems like there’s still very much a verdict out on Unai Emery. Which is justifiable and understandable.

The players needed and probably got a bit of a culture shock. I don’t think he inherited a good enough squad to do it the way he would have liked.

Remember Pep’s first year at the Man City? I distinctly remember people saying he was training them too hard and he was going to burn out his poor millionaire superstars. I think he did too. They didn’t win much.

It appears we hit a wall and burned out too last season. So for me it bodes well. Ask any City fan, Raheem Stirling, David Silva, Fernandino, Kevin De Bruyne and I’m certain a few more how they feel about it now. Alternatively you could ask Joe Hart (learn to pass it Joe or you can’t play for us), Jesus Navas, Eliaquim Malanga, Samir Nasri, John Stones, Bernard Mendy etc. who may see it differently. I hope you get my point.

Obviously the big difference is what to do about it. City just bought better players for a shed load of money. We can’t. So one of our alternatives is to promote the youngsters, which is what recent posts have been about. It’s VERY important that we’re very careful here if we use this strategy. Reiss Nelson will not turn into Ryiad Mahrez in one season, nor Eddie into Sergio Aguero. As a believer in a much needed mentality shift, I can’t see a problem with bringing in a young player to replace some of our current squad who just don’t seem to have a good enough attitude and/or work ethic.

But if we do, just make sure we temper our expectations of the team and manager so we give them a chance to succeed. Because it took City 2 years and Liverpool 3 years to do it and I’m not sure we can compete with either one of them financially (certainly the City, but probably Liverpool now too).

Mike M


It’s the young guns NOT playing against Borehamwood that you should be excited about.

July 6, 2019

At last … I know it’s only been a few weeks since our disappointing end to last season. I, like, many felt like I needed a break from football … but you can’t help salivating at the thought of seeing those red and white shirts strutting their stuff again at Borehamwood today.

The first team will only return to training next Friday and so we will field a side composed mainly of under 23s with Steve Bould back in charge. The exact team has not been announced at the point of publishing, but there will be plent of young talent on show at Meadow Park.

It is expected that Amaechi, Balogun and John-Jules will feature whilst Zech Medley is also likely to play along with promising young goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo. There will also be several promoted from under 18 level, the likes of Mazeed Ogungbo, Sam Greenwood and Matthew Smith.

However, more significantly, these players are not in the squad …

Eddie Nketiah

Emile Smith Rowe

Bukayo Saka

Joe Willock

 

… they will be joining the  first-team for training. This is great news and one that is likely to be music to the ears of AA bloggers following the comments this week calling for their inclusion.

Zech Medley (he’s a centre back if you didn’t know) may be one who some wish had also made the step up … does this mean we will be getting a new, more experienced CB?

Just for the record, in the same fixture last season we fielded a side peppered with first team stars and won 8 nil with a hattrick from Auba, and a goal apiece for Laca, Mkhi, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and Jeff Reine-Adelaide.

Rasp


We loved Arsène Wenger … but isn’t it time to move on ….

July 5, 2019

We’ve had some excellent contributions from bloggers over the past few days.

Our varying views have shown that there’s still a lot of love for Özil although many want him gone, some reckon that Emery isn’t the man for the job where others are ready to give him another year and many, many Arsenal supporters are still hurting from the fact that Arsène Wenger has gone. What ever happens to Özil or Emery, it’s all part of the fabric of our history as were the glorious years of having Arsène Wenger as our manager.

Our feelings about the club and our views about what should or shouldn’t happen can hamper debate and discussion occasionally, but we welcome all views on here and just ask that people try and keep calm. A wise blog owner told me years ago ‘it’s just a blog’ 🙂

There is always so much speculation during the closed season about who will come and who will go. Without actual football to watch sometimes our trips into navel gazing end in tears where in reality this forum is for Arsenal supporters to chat about the club we love in good times and in difficult times.

Yesterday’s comments threw up these conflicting views ………….

This from VP

Emery I thought got worse as the season progressed and fell in a heap. 1 win from finishing in top 4 & CL, and 1 win from finishing with a european trophy. But I’m up for what he can do in his second season (althought wouldve loved Rafa).

And this from Els

I don’t think Emery got worse as the season went on. I think they were burnt out. Emery’s intense training sessions were too much of a culture shock for a lot of players used to a more creative style of play.

I think a lot of players had nothing left to give.

Another season and pre-season in particular will help with that. Also a lot of young legs. Another reason why Emery is a good fit.

I, like many supporters, felt very frustrated that the team weren’t able to get themselves into the top four. And the thought that that lot from down the road were actually better prepared to get themselves into the top four above us quite frankly leaves a very sour taste in my mouth.

I’m looking forward to the new season with hope and expectation, I shall be saying that a lot in the coming weeks.

peachesgooner

 

 

 


Unai Emery … listen to Freddie … you already have the young talent

July 4, 2019

There’s been a lot of talk about using Academy players to plump up the squad as we seem to have run out of money … thanks Stan for not putting your hand in your pocket to help your team!

I find it worrying that often when we talk about buying players we agonise over not disrupting the squad and yet there are legions of fans wanting to sell more than half of our current first team.

Back in 2008 we had a fabulous set of players in the Academy/Under 21’s and Arsene Wenger knew that he was going to need to use some of these players in the First Team. Anyone remember a stunning victory in the Carling Cup against Sheffield Wednesday at the Emirates Stadium. The game ended 6-0. A hattrick for Carlos Vela, a brace for Nicklas Bendtner and a goal for Jack Wilshere, making him the second youngest Arsenal scorer. It was a night of fabulous football, I was there as our boys tore into the Blades and I can tell you I was excited at the prospect of Bendtner and Vela playing together in the First Team.

I’m not sure they ever played together in the First Team, I remember that van Persie got injured and Bendtner became his replacement. But the special way that they had played together that night was never seen again.

Last season we witnessed another night similar to that one in 2008 when several young guns lines up against Vorskla away in the Europa league in November.

 

We won the game 3-0 with goals from Emile Smith-Rowe, Ramsey and Joe Willock. Eddie Nketiah also started the game. In the second half more youngsters were given a chance of game time with Medley, Saka and Charlie Gilmour replacing Holding, Ramsey and Guendouzi. It was a fabulous display, the young guns knew how to play together and it showed on the pitch. We saw some of them individually later on in the season but not in numbers. They’re used to playing together, they know how to read each other, I feel we need to use them as a group.

What I’m trying to say is that they have to be given a chance to play regularly if we are going to reap the rewards of the fact that they’ve been playing together since they were tiny tots.

Arsene Wenger wasn’t brave enough to do this consistently but maybe Freddie Ljungberg will be and Unai Emery will listen to him. I hope so.

peachesgooner


Emery is wrong … build the team around Özil

July 3, 2019

Confusing times …

We have a manager who I took against within about two weeks of his arrival. Because I seemed to be in such a minority, I drifted away from the two or three Arsenal supporters’ blogs that I was in the habit of reading. Everyone liked the new energy, the direction the club was taking, and certainly the results during the first half of the season justified the optimism. I didn’t like it – any of it.

When you have a set of round pegs, you can try to squeeze them into square holes, you can throw them away and buy new square pegs, or you can create round holes into which to fit them. From the outset, Emery forced his round pegs, and the rounder they were, the more he tried to crush them into his shape of choice.

When you have three of the most potent, exciting, skilful footballers in the world, you can start your system with them, and build around them – or you can mess around with them and make them what they’re not.

When you have some of the best talent coming up through the Academy, you can encourage them, fast track them, utilise them: or you can bring in other exciting young players to block their progress.

For me, Emery failed in every one of these aspects.

Many months ago, I wrote on here that I thought Mesut Ozil could not fit into the new system, and was criticised for that view. Ozil is one of my all-time favourite players, second only to Dennis in garnering my admiration. I choke at the thought of him not playing in red and white any more. I was apoplectic at the way Emery treated him (I’m convinced this was a reaction to his losing the PSG dressing room). Alongside Ozil, how were Lacazette and Aubameyang treated? Confusingly. When they were both fit, the manager took far too long to play them together.

Unequivocally, in the right system, those three together would rip defences to shreds (as they all too occasionally have), at least as potently as the Liverpool front three.

Five of our best youngsters were farmed out for experience. All well and good; probably the right thing to do. Emi Martinez has been our best goalkeeper for a while now, but has been consistently shunted back, and then loaned to Reading, where they think he’s a hero. Callum Chambers was player of the year at Fulham in a DM role. Krystian Bielik pulled up trees making a massive impression at Charlton. Reiss Nelson and ESR furthered their education in Germany, and certainly Nelson impressed, making the shortlist for Rookie of the Year.

 

The point is, what now? The latter two are attacking players, wingers or attacking midfielders. But we’re bidding for Zaha, Brahimi, etc. Chambers and especially Bielik might well be the answer to our DM shortcomings. Chambers is maybe a bit slow. Bielik isn’t, is a big unit with all the skill. He’s had a few growing pains, but he’s possibly through them at last. If he doesn’t get his chance this year, we’re going to lose him. Martinez should certainly be allowed to vie with Leno to start – I personally think he’s better.

Then there are the others, who stayed at the club. Jordi Osei-Tutu has gone, a really promising pacey right back, who might have been tried in order to free up AMN for a more suitable role, but never was. Willock was a way better player than Guendouzi and Xhaka last season, but got his chance too late. He’s fleet, skilful, proper box-to-box, good defensively, and has an eye for goal (even if he had something in it in the Europa Final!). The same things could be said of Ainsley Maitland-Niles who has endured being put at right back in order to get into the team.

The players who Emery picked: Xhaka, good when the team is dominating and not exposed to the fast break, but awful if rushed, because of his lack of pace, which forces him into rash challenges; Torreira, everyone’s favourite because of his insane commitment to the cause, but actually too lightweight, and not really quick enough; Guendouzi, a player full of promise, but whose main contribution was falling over to draw fouls.

 

What of Emery’s tactics?

We were promised measured playing out from the back to draw the opposition out of position. That was a disaster, especially when Cech was in goal, more so when Mustafi was the defender. Even Leno abandoned it late in the season. We were promised a high press to win the ball back early and near the opposition penalty area. It spluttered throughout the year, and was less used towards the end. He did have a magic touch in the first half of the season, with his substitutions and timing thereof, but even that waned. I’m not aware of any other tactics, or tactical shifts during games. He did tinker with the old back three/back four dichotomy, but the result seemed more confusing for the defenders than helpful.

And the man himself? He was much lauded for his determination to speak English from the get-go, but I found him incomprehensible, no less so after a year in the job. When I did understand him, he spoke in totally meaningless platitudes, and entirely without humour – how I missed Arsene’s wit and wisdom.

Well now he wants new toys to play with – Zaha et al. And as always at this time of year, the fans are in a frenzy to buy this star, that rock, the other tyro. This is why I thank fellow blogger Fred for pointing out the obvious, that you can’t promote youth AND buy stars. It doesn’t compute.

Me? I’d start with Ozil Lacazette and Aubameyang. I’d have AMN, Willock and Bielik as first/second choice midfielders, in any combination according to circumstances. I like several of the attacking youngsters, who should certainly be in the squad, along with Iwobi. Martinez would be my goalie. Central defence and left back might need a bit of shoring up, although there’s not much wrong with Papa, Holding, Chambers and Mavropanos. Monreal has lost too much pace. Koscielny needs a final season like Mertesacker’s. Mustafi… well, Mustafi! Let Xhaka go, let Torreira go back to Italy, sell Elneny, Jenkinson and Mhkitaryan. And Mustafi… Hopefully, Bellerin will return undiminished. So maybe Tierney to fill left back is the only player I would consider.

Sit back with a rock solid defence, fast transitions with AMN and Willock to Ozil, unlock the strike force. Easy.

Written by Maxwell


Zaha …… the best we can afford?

July 2, 2019

I love our club but why are we offering £40m for a player that is widely valued at £80-£100m? Does his love of Arsenal mean that he’s going to be successful for us or is he just following in the footsteps of other English players who we want to be better than they turn out to be?

I know sometimes you have to take a punt on a player but surely not at that price. I can see this becoming embarrassing while Palace dig their heels in for more and Zaha comes out and says he’ll only play for Arsenal.

Is the desire to buy Zaha (and Tierney to some extent) linked to the Homegrown Rule where in a squad of a maximum of 25 players there have to be 8 homegrown players over the age of 21?

Arsene Wenger (or Gazidis?) always made sure that there were sufficient numbers of Homegrown in the squad to satisfy the rules. Losing Welbeck means we must replace somewhere with homegrown, similarly if we sell Jenkinson and Chambers. Homegrown means that a player has to have been at an English (or Welsh) club for three years before they turn 21 ……… so Bellerin (Spain) counts as homegrown having come through our academy.

One of our bloggers summed it up for me yesterday ………….

I think we could buy Zaha for £45 million plus the likes of one of our lower earners (but half decent players) as Jenks or Elneny etc. but the only reason I see for having him would be that we wouldn’t have to face him again and the increase in our penalty count.

In other news Swiss Ramble put a brilliant thread on Twitter about the state of our finances, have a read if you get a chance, we have really dropped down the pecking order against the other top six sides. Shockingly our income from commercial deals is well below the other clubs ………… and we’re supposed to be a self sustaining model.

I’m sure there’ll be more mad news today ……..

peachesgooner


Are you taking the Mkhi? …..

July 1, 2019

When Mkhitaryan joined Manchester United from Borrusia Dortmund in 2016 he was scoring more than a goal every four games and was considered to be one of the best mifdfielders in Europe. Mourinho then did what he does best, destroyed his confidence and reduced him to an outcast benchwarmer.

On 22 January 2018, he joined Arsenal as part of the swap for Alexis Sanchez, and although he hasn’t been a massive success, we definitely got the better side of that particular deal. I guess it’s fair to say that Mkhitaryan is now firmly in the marmite category for many Arsenal supporters.

This is AA regular RC78’s assessment ….

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Mikhy) played 39 games for us last season, starting 28 of which 19 were in the Premier League. He scored 6 goals and provided 7 assists in 2522 mins, so he has been directly influential every 194 mins (every 2 games more or less). He has missed 10 games due to injury.

Mikhy is one of our most clever players – he is very good at providing the pass before the assist because he has a good eye, he can create imbalance in the opposition through his passing. On the other hand, he is rather slow and has suffered recurring injuries. He is now 30. Some people have also pointed out that he is not the best  when it comes to regaining the ball or pressing the opposition. He averages one tackles per game and has an average of 0.6 interceptions per game. He has also executed 1.2 key passes per game in the EPL and 1.6 in the EL.

So are you happy with his contribution to our team or would you rather see him leave the club this summer?

My opinion is that although he is one of our highest earners, I would rather keep him and sell Ozil (due to value, fan drift) however I accept that Ozil is probably a superior passer and dribbler.

RC78

We need to sell existing players who are peripheral to the team if we want to increase our spending power to bring in new players. For many, Mhkitaryan is on that list … what do you think?