I sporadically tuned in last night to watch Liverpool against Bournemouth in a match that was supposed to be so comically one-sided it wouldn’t seem fair. Instead I saw a hard working Bournemouth team treated to some rough luck as Liverpool scored a goal which, under the rules, should not have stood. Talking about decisions costing people’s lives may sound hyperbolic, but what happens if Bournemouth need a point to survive on the last game in May?
I’m reluctant to have a chortle at the scouters and their performance, however, after our insipid first game of the season. They have six points to our three after all. But hopefully we can level the tally by beating them next Monday.
Hopefully too, we hear large swathes of the media talking about how lucky Liverpool were last night, a bit like how we were ‘lucky’ not to have Coquelin sent off. I wait with excitement and anticipation on that (sacrasm-o-meter is reading off the charts here folks).
As for us, we’ve learned that a good self talking to is its own reward, as Big Per has explained to in the aftermath of Sunday’s victory. The players coming together to have those conversations is important. It’s one thing to put negative results at the managers door, but sometimes you do need players to take responsibility for their own actions, which it seems like this is happening when you hear stories like this. I do find it infuriating when clichés are thrown around by TV pundits about ‘lack of leaders’ every time we don’t perform as we should. Big Per may not be the best defender in the world, he may not be the most exciting player in the squad, but on the evidence I’ve seen you can hardly say he isn’t a leader. He talks on the pitch, he encouraged his fellow pros and if you look back to the 6-3 defeat at City two seasons ago, it was him who berated Özil for not going to clap the fans after a humiliating defeat.
How is that not leadership? Just because he isn’t thumping his chest and shouting inaudible words when the cameras are in view, he’s not a leader? Those that talk up Arsenal’s deficiencies in leadership should try to get pitch side and watch him. I have. He is a leader and a good one at that.
Anyway, back to the football and the fact that we’re already starting to look at next Monday’s game against Liverpool. It’s difficult to read too much in to last nights Scouse performance in an Arsenal context, because you really do get the sense in these games that it’s down to just getting the fitness levels back, but confidence plays a big part. After that first 20 minutes at Selhurst Park it immediately felt like The Arsenal that we all know and love and not some sort of sabotaging monkeys in Arsenal player shirts with cut out face masks of the first team. The passing resembled the crispness of the end of last season and those players in which their accuracy of passing and ball retention need to be near perfection to show their grace and class, all showed up and demonstrated what elite football is at times. Both Özil and Cazorla were sublime and I hope Arsène realised that playing them both centrally benefits the other in games like that one on Sunday lunchtime.
It’s about little connections all over the park. Big Per and Kos, Cech and his defenders, Santi and Mesut, Santi and Coquelin, Giroud and Mesut, fullbacks and wide players. The list goes on and on. Yes football is about operating as a team, but it’s also about forming small scale alliances and understandings between players who operate within your own ‘zones’ too. We are fortunate because the lack of a complete squad overhaul has meant that many of those small connections remain in tact from last season, but they still need to be re-established I think. The human brain works best when it can automate certain functions. Repetition of the same act allows us to master tasks. That’s why it’s important for the players to continue those small connections as well as the wider team connection, because it will enable them to understand where players playing parts of the park close to them, will be and then act upon certain situations (players closing down quicker, finding empty space to pass in to, etc) with more efficiency.
So perhaps that’s why some people still need to give Cech a little bit of slack after two games? I’ve seen a few people already blaming him for Palace and whilst it’s true he was at fault for the goals against West Ham, what Big Per says in the linked article above is also true: when you concede goals like we did there are usually three or four little mistakes rather than a massive one, that lead to conceding. So whilst Big Per is quick to point out the great communication between ‘keeper and defence, the need for the connections to be built up to an optimum level is still ongoing.
With each game I’m expecting it to get better, so let’s hope we see yet more improvement across all aspects of the team on Monday next week.