I’ll start with an admission, I struggled to stay awake in the second half. And by the final whistle I was slipping in and out of consciousness.
These are rambling wittering observations thoughts and feelings in no particular order.
1. Is this the right plan?
I can see there is a plan…it’s just not that interesting to watch and it is proving easy for opposition sides to counteract. Where is the excitement where is the creative spark?
In the first half before Sheffield United got their much deserved goal, with ball in Leno’s hands or at feet the two centre backs pull wide one midfielder stands facing the goalkeeper and the full backs push up the wing. Obviously the intention is pass to one of the recipients avoid the press and move the ball to one of the wingbacks to go forward.
The problem? It’s far too easy to nullify, Sheffield United just placed their front men and a couple of midfielders about ten – twenty yards away in a line. The centre backs could receive ball easily but had no options (as they were pressed by positioning) other than going back or to the sideways. If we were facing a hard press then perhaps we could pass round and take a few opponents out of the game. But teams are not doing that because why would you?
2. Where is the creativity?
If you take individual creativity out of the situation then you are left with drones who can only play one way and become easy to mark and counter. There was a point in the first half where Chambers faced by a wall tries to keep going forward but with zero options, eventually turned back and we ended up giving ball away, this earned a thumbs up from Emery, presumably because the pass and the movement is per the intended plan.
3. Final Third Danger
We all know our best players are up the top half of the pitch, but if we can’t get the ball to them what’s the point in having them on the pitch?
I actually liked some of Pepe’s game last night unfortunately he was having to do stuff in his own half, take the missed chance. He won the ball in our third, used quick feet and passed the ball on quickly and set off on a lung busting run, there was a chance to play him in when he was just ahead of the half way line, we went wide again (one assumes as per the plan) then when the cross finally came he was having to slow his run to stay behind the ball and find another burst of speed to try to get to the ball. He couldn’t sort his feet out quickly enough and the chance went begging. Therein lies the problem, he had to work from so deep to even get that chance. If he had started from half way line we may have had a different outcome. If the pass hadn’t gone wide but put him through he would have had a better chance and a more direct run on goal.
4. Controlling possession, so what?
When the fourth or fifth sideways pass have induced everyone into a coma and someone takes it upon themselves to try and move forward to go for an over the top channel ball to PEA, we all know he is not a hold up player but I don’t think he wants the thankless task of running channels for 90 minutes hoping for a 50:50 ball to work for him.
5. Cutting edge, incision – blunt knife
The second half came and went with more sideways passing, albeit further up the pitch as Sheffield United tired and lined up deeper than they had in the first half. Didn’t help us much as there was very little space to pass through the eye of a needle and very little movement until Lacazette came on, his introduction did seem to lift PEA’s spirits and for the next five minutes there was some more mobility.
Cebalios had more room to run with the ball from deep but there were very few options ahead of him. There seems to be no desire to try the difficult ball resulting in more possession but very little direct play towards the oppositions goal.
The performance was boring, I’d accept a 1-0 defeat if we actually looked like equalising, we didn’t, the whole team needs to step up and be bold, they need to try something different they need to recognise what isn’t working, we have experienced players in Sokratis and Luiz who seriously can’t believe that accepting the ball faced with four opponents and few options is a good way to start moving up the pitch. They are on the pitch they need to make the right decisions they need to say to Leno “no” it goes long we need to gain thirty yards.
I am bored of seeing our wide men go forward with the ball and then turning back to play a safe possession pass.
I was hoping to get tickets for the Southampton home game and take my boys (I can buy Friday) the same day there is a 54 mile cycle cross sportive. Part of me thinks I’d have more fun cycling across Breckland Heath in mud and sand than going to the Arsenal for the first time this season. Can that be right? I’m not an ardent cyclist, and it will be cold and probably wet. Why do I think it would be more fun?