Let Them Entertain Me – Sheffield Utd 1 – Arsenal (?) 0

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.

6. Conclusion

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?


28 Responses to Let Them Entertain Me – Sheffield Utd 1 – Arsenal (?) 0

  1. RC78 says:

    Top post and fully agree

    I think that now it is an Emery problem. He needs to sort things out.

  2. RC78 says:

    I also think that some team shake up is necessary and that Ozil is needed in some games. You may like or dislike Ozil but he can create changes so take Xhaka out of the game, bring Ozil in ans ask Douzi and Willock to cover the defense… Or bring in Torreira and Ozil for Willock and Xhaka. This lack of creativity was really annoying yesterday

  3. RC78 says:

    And also we need a Giroud type of player because when you play vs these teams, you need a player up front that can head the ball, receive long balls and hold up the ball. Auba can’t do that, Laca can but wouldn’t hurt having a Giroud – Llorente type of player in the team

  4. Gööner In Exile says:

    RC78 I agree entirely about a Giroud type, as with many things in life you don’t realise what you have until it is gone. He was a good target man in the old fashioned English football sense, but still had impressive footwork and ability to play one twos around the box with those willing runners.

    As you say Laca can do the above and is willing to do the above he is probable better at Giroud in terms of also having a goal threat with back to goal as his ability to turn and fire on a sixpence is more reminiscent of Ian Wright. Unfortunately Laca does not really have the height to be a real target man.

    PEA seems to need to be facing goal, and in the Premier League you don’t get many opportunities to arrive like that unless coming from wide or the opponents being committed up the pitch.

    If only we could somehow merge Laca’s ability and willingness to play the target man and hold up and PEA’s height and physical presence.

    I think it can work with Laca up top centrally and PEA on the left or right, I also like the idea of them as a traditional front two. I’m sure we can figure out a formation behind that which looks far more exciting that what we have seen of late.

  5. Mike M says:

    Morning all. That was horrible. Pretty confusing also. I’ve gone from someone who thought Emery was the right man for the job to being quite convinced he’s way out of his depth. For those who remember, I felt his use/development of Xhaka this season would be the most telling factor in whether or not he was the right man. I think the evidence is there for all to see, I’m not blaming Xhaka for yesterday but i will say one more time, if your central player in a 3 man midfield is slow, ponderous and un-athletic, that defines who you are as a team. And right now, that’s who we are.

  6. Gööner In Exile says:

    Mike I don’t think I have an issue with Xhaka being a bit slower, I would say he appears to be easily coached, doing what his respective coaches have wanted otherwise I can’t see how he keeps being picked. And Guendouzzi surely offers that dynamism that we crave they can’t both be the same.

    That said for me we seem to have no cohesiveness in terms of moving ball from front to back

    Maybe Emery needs longer, maybe the early part of last season was more a hybrid of systems, some of Arsene’s penchant for the creatives couples with a bit of Emery’s pragmatism.

    Towards the end of last season it may have been more his shape and style but without the right players.

    And after a change of personnel this term perhaps we have to take a couple of backward steps to go forward.

    We have the makings of a fine team, but presently it feels like we are taking many backwards steps to get it right and for the team to balance. There is no onesizefitsall solution.

  7. fatgingergooner says:

    Last night made it glaringly obvious that we haven’t replaced Ramsey and Özil. There is nobody to sit in that gap between attack and midfield who can orchestrate our attacks and help us get through the lines. All too often the ball either goes wide (hence the side to side passing) or it goes over the top with Auba isolated. Willock played the role last night and he just couldn’t get in the game. Some praise has to go to Sheffield United, but too often Willock didn’t do enough to find space. Instead of sitting in a gap and holding his position he would drift further forward and become a second striker making him easier to mark and increasing the gap to midfield.

    How do we fix it?

    We could go to Özil and hope he can re-find his best form, but I feel that moment has passed and his defensive frailties make me want to hurt myself. We could continue with Willock and hope he grows into the role but last night didn’t fill me with confidence. We could use Ceballos in there but I haven’t seen anything from him that makes me think that’s his best position (seems more an 8 than a 10, and I’m not talking about his looks, or his shit hair). I think the hope right now has to be that the return of Lacazette gives us more of a focal point up top and allows people like Auba and Pepe to play off him and come inside, mixed with more attacking, quicker full backs in Tierney and Bellerin who can cover the wide positions better which would also allow Pepe and Auba to come inside in those gaps that a Ramsey or Özil would play in.

    It seems to be that Tierney and Bellerin are the answer to every problem in this side, but I honestly believe they are a huge part of our game and we will be far better with them in the side.

  8. Sue says:

    I think you’d have more fun on your bike too, GIE! 😀
    Having said that though.. a day out with your boys at the Emirates..you can’t beat it! I take my son.. last game was Villa. It isn’t always a happy journey home though!! Haha!
    You never know, by then things may have improved, a little. Ozil may actually be in the squad.. Torreira might play.. Pepe may finally find the back of the net. Xhaka may have a suspension 😀 and the ref hopefully won’t be Mike Dean.. oh my that man really irks me.. the way he struts round the pitch, like he’s a God.. ☹ And we may actually make a forward pass, or 4!!

  9. Rasp says:

    Thanks GiE, I’m in complete agreement.

    Up until yesterday, the jury was still out on Unai … now I’m sad to say he just doesn’t cut it. He’s got the players, but lacks the ability to mould and motivate them into a team. I think we have sufficient quality coming through as CB’s, what we desperately need is a midfield playmaker.

    Leno has gone backwards. I laughed in the first half when he collected the ball and SU just backed off enough to wait for him to play one of our defenders into trouble .. he didn’t disappoint.

    Right at this moment in terms of confidence and form, I’d say Martinez is head and shoulders our best keeper.

    Pepe is beginning to get English football, there were real signs of improvement in his play yesterday and as you say, he was instrumental in winning the ball back on several occasions.

    The team do lack identity – is that because Emery overthinks his tactics in regard to the opposition’s threat and changes it so much that the players are never comfortable in one system?

  10. Sue says:

    Unai has said Tierney didn’t play last night as Kola hasn’t done anything worthy of being dropped 😳😳😳 smh…..

  11. Sue says:

    RC.. Is Cavani back for tonight?

  12. fatgingergooner says:


    Kola started….isn’t that enough to drop him!?

    That moment second half when he ran under a cross and left their striker free 10 yards out. Luckily the striker hand balled it otherwise it was 2-0!

    He should be second choice and nothing more.

  13. Sue says:

    FGG.. It is becoming oh so clear that Unai really hasn’t got a scooby!!

  14. RC78 says:

    Unai will change the profile of our team by having more resilient and direct players but at Psg, he didn’t improve our style or make our team better and he made it worse in away games. Blanc was much better.

    There is a gap in playmaking in the middle but it s more about the ability to make destabilising runs and I think that Ceba was supposed to offer that. I d love for us to play with only 2 mids and ask Laca to play as a 9 1/2 behind Auba and then Pepe on one side and another player on the other side

  15. Sue says:

    Bloody hell, City have yet another injury – Rodri
    Aguero’s on a hat trick 😊
    Think the biggest shock of tonight’s games is the spuds winning 🤣

  16. Sue says:

    RC.. Mbappe!!!
    Some night in the CL, hey?!

  17. LB says:

    I don’t think that the jury are quite back yet, but they are close, they are in the hallway, they are knocking on the door but until Bellerin and Tierney return they are still out but heaven help him if he can’t make it work then.

  18. Gööner In Exile says:

    Rasp on Leno, is it really him that has gone backwards or just the way Emery wants him to play? He looks less comfortable this year than last but it appears that this change to the goal kick rule has solidified Emery’s attempts to play out from the back this way. I just think it’s too easy to counter it as you say stand back ten yards and wait for him to pass it there.

    It is very phase of play orientated coaching very dogmatic approach.

    I posted a YT video of the 6v6 game and the training before hand the other day. Even from those snippets you then watch players on match day making the same runs looking for the same options. As I said at the time the fact they were playing against mannequins made it far too easy.

    Without a target man we have to jump to rely on 50:50s and picking up pieces more than we would if we had one. That coupled with the fact Emery clearly wants to play out with possession gives opponents few worries. A target man type forward makes opponents think twice. As does a defender who can carry the ball out from the back…again neither of ours seem to do that so we are left with Guendouzzi being the man someone has to find for any hope of going forward on the floor and Xhaka if we are trying to go longer.

    I think RC78 and FGG have it bang on with that quandary in the midfield the ability to find space, play unexpected passes and manouvre the opposition out of shape. Don’t think we have anyone in our squad who can do that…..

  19. RC78 says:

    @Sue – Mbappe back with a bang. Youngest player to score more than 15 goals in CL. The boy is a machine… PSG won’t keep him past next season… He ll go to a bigger team like Real, Barca, City, Bayern, Juve. He can’t be kept in L1. Now imagine Arsenal buys him… Lol
    —— Auba
    Mbappe Laca Pepe


  20. Sue says:

    I agree, RC.. he is a machine! The world is his oyster.

  21. Rasp says:

    Hi GiE, I take your point about Leno following UE’s instructions, but surely Martinez is coached in exactly the same system, but his decision making on distribution was much better. I’m hoping to see more examples of this on Thursday. I also feel he commands his box and is better dealing with aerial balls.

    I think my point about ‘the jury’ analogy is that even without his best eleven players, Emery sends out teams (in away games at least) who are less than the sum of their parts … which to me means good players are not being blended to form an effective team. The market value of our players was probably three times that of Sheffield United and yet they outplayed us.

    RC’s constant reminder that PSG were dreadful away from home under Emery is ringing alarm bells … if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck … it’s almost certainly .. etc etc

  22. Rasp says:

    GiE, again I agree about the midfield problem. Playing the safe pass because it means we retain possession has been a characteristic for years now … and in that time, we have seen numerous games where we’ve had 60-70% possession and lost 1 nil.

    Top quality midfield playmakers are rare and expensive. If only we could unearth another Santi. The obvious remedy with the current crop of players (and the one Emery will never adopt) is to play Holding as CB, move Luis to DM, bench Xhaka and give Guendouzi a free role in midfield.

  23. LBG says:

    Xhaka, you can call it bullshit as much as you like, but Evra is right about you and several others currently selected. Where is the backbone and grit when we are down? Going through the motions, no creativity or positivity, blaming everything except yourselves AND worse bringing down some of the youngsters who are “accepting” instead of upping effort in adversity.

  24. RA says:

    For what’s worth, I agree with GIE that Leno is instructed by Emery to play the ball short distances in or out of his area to retain possession in a rubbish strategy.

    Who on here does not hold his breath when Leno and/or other defenders pass like that with the opposition breathing down the receivers neck — it is pathetic.

    A lot of possession in the 20 metres from our goal line, passing slowly sideways and back to the GK, will ensure our hopes of scoring from there will be close to zero. No problem if we are winning, maybe, but when we are losing it is a scandalous tactic.

    And not withstanding the above — I think the Rasper is correct — Leno is just your average Joe as a GK.
    Martinez is much better.

    I have thought bout taking a sabbatical before, but never went through with it — this time the feeling is stronger.

    It is not that I have delusions of grandeur — if the team play their hearts out — fair enough, even if we start to get into relegation problems, that would be excruciating, but forgivable to the extent the kids gave their all.

    But a coach who keeps repeating poor, unworkable tactics, and making the same mistakes, which includes constantly selecting poor players — that is unforgivable and he needs to hit the road Jack – and don’t come back.

  25. RC78 says:

    I am all for being a robust team but we also need creativity…The only players that can create chances at the moment are the strikers for themselves…I am sure that with Tierney and Bello, we ll have more width and more people creating but we need to either free up Douzi from defensive chores or to play Ceballos or Ozil but we need one person in the midfield to be our De Bruyne/;ilinko Savic/Artur/Fabian Ruiz/Zielinski/Ndombele type of player…

    Fudge Sok and Xhaka and bring in Holding and Chambers

    Leno – Bello, Holding, Luiz, Tierney – Douzi, Chambers, Torreira or WIllock – Pepe, Laca, Auba

    I dunno what needs to be done…but let s try smt…

  26. Oh poo, we have a game today and I totally forgot …… anyone fancy writing a pre-match? Or I will and we know how Monday went 🙈

  27. Too late, I’ve done one ……………..

  28. There’s a New Post ……………

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