We love to feature posts on our Blog written by fellow Arsenal supporters. We’re happy to welcome Simon back on the platform who we already featured in one of our GGPodcast editions. So what’s wrong with Arsenal?
Watching Arsenal at the moment is like watching a Christopher Nolan film for the first time – you just don’t know whether you’ll enjoy it.
We go from clinical and free-flowing to slow and complicatedin a matter of days.
But since we aren’t an inexperienced team, assembled at random, but rather a group full of experienced players that have known each other for a while now, there is just the one question:
Why are we, despite general improvement across the squad, so inconsistent in our level of performance.
Over the last weeks, two main causes have started to appear. One based on what we can see and one, well, more of a theory:
Issue #1: Arteta countering his own game plan through his player selection
I feel Arteta is very good at coming up with a game plan.
That’s the eye test – and that’s what players say about him. He knows how the game works, what the opponent will do and how the match will play out.
He sets up accordingly and then in some games, he just picks players that work against his own game plan.
Whether that’s a counter attacking plan with Lacazette leading the line, a possession based plan against a low block with Auba on the left, or throwing in Nketiah after a month-long absence without changing the system to suit his style.
The issue against Everton wasn’t Nketiah starting. Injuries happen, players miss games. With Auba and Laca out, he was probably next in line – especially after nicking the equaliseragainst Fulham. The issue was setting up like Lacazette was still playing. The structure and positioning of the team was built around Laca’s movement.
There’s an argument of keeping the system as is, especially if Lacazette might make the Villarreal game, but it begs the question why Arteta then didn’t use someone else. Someone like Balogun would have been a more natural replacement, with his ability to hold up and link play. Arteta even could have tried a clearer false 9 approach, with a player more skilled in keeping possession in tight spaces. And yet he picked a player whose main strengths are putting defenders under pressure and box movement, without seemingly adjusting the approach for it.
It just doesn’t quite work and it didn’t. For the 8th time we ended a home game without scoring and for the 8th time, we finished a home game with xG less than 1. Our failure to create has continued to cost us points and it is closely linked toArteta’s lack of coherence regarding game plan and starting XI.
Issue #2: Load management / overtraining
That’s the one based on a theory – but the only reason that makes any sense to me.
We regularly hear from the manager just how well everyone is doing in training – individually and as a group. Then why are the players unable to transfer that to our competitive games? Or is them doing so well in training the reason they are unable to, consistently, do so in games. Is the process of preparing for games wearing them out so much, they lack the sharpness to carry out the plan? The extremity in our bipolarity just doesn’t reflect the experience and skill represented in the squad. Instead, we often look physically and mentally ill-prepared: tired, unfocused and full of heavy legs – which all impacts the way we play:
Technically gifted players have games in which theirtouches are loose and their passes sloppy
Direct 50/50s are lost at a rate that can’t solely be put down the opposition wanting it more.
Players lacking physical sharpness to compete at this level.
And we all know how many goals we concede from individual errors.
All of which contributes to us having games like the one v Everton. A performance that wasn’t terrible, but wasn’t great either. Tired legs, sloppy passing and unsuccessful touches meant we didn’t have the precision and movement to create chances, while lack of focus cost us a goal at our end.
Whether it’s how we train, how much we train or something else entirely. It seems to result in the team not being prepared – physically and mentally – and it has a direct impact on our performance level and our results.
Worst of all, those two issues are linked and directly impact each other. Maybe, had we been sharper and technically more precise v Everton, starting an ill-fitted Nketiah wouldn’t have mattered. Maybe starting a better fit would have raised the technical level due to more moves coming off. It’s speculative, but when it happens as regularly as it does with this group of players, you have to wonder where it’s coming from – and whether Arteta will be able to fix it. Because even if we were to win the EL and qualify for the Champions League, these issues wouldn’t magically go away. Despite it all, over the last 19 games we earned 32 points, a trend which, when kept for a full season, would be enough to mount a serious top4 challenge. Yet as long as our issues exist, I fear we’d always fall just short of achieving our goals.
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