It was a fair few years ago now that our Head of Academy Development (of variation of job title thereof) coined the phrase ‘automatisms’ in an interview when talking about the little partnerships and bits that ‘click’ within a component parts of a team, but that’s what has me thinking this morning. Specifically after we saw the Mkhi and Auba connection bear fruit on Sunday at Watford as one supplied the other, then vice versa, which of course got us all very excited.
It’s no surprise that they have been able to link up in the short period of time they’ve been together given their Dortmund connection but, given that this team needs a few more of those ‘automatisms’ clicking in to place, I started to think about using the remainder of this season as a platform to develop some partnerships for next season too.
It’s a tricky one though because there are so many questions about the team, the manager, the club as a whole. Imagine if you’re a player in this current Arsenal team and you start to build a partnership with another player – or three or four – and then at the end of the season the club gets a new manager in and he wants a different style and your partnership doesn’t so much flourish, as die on its arse. It’d be pretty frustrating. You just start to feel you’re getting somewhere with somebody and all of a sudden you have to start again with somebody else and probably with a different playing style, asked to do a different job, n’all.
The uncertainty around so many situations at the club can’t exactly help the players to build those partnerships. You’ve got Jack probably out of the door, you’ve got a precarious situation with Ramsey and one year left in his deal, you’ve got Koscielny looking more fragile by the week, as well as talk of Hector wanting out, or Cech’s days being numbered. All across the pitch there doesn’t really feel like there’s anywhere that we could start to build these ‘automatisms’ for next season.
Except up top. In the attacking positions we have Auba, Laca, Mkhitaryan and Özil who all have longer deals, have either signed new deals, or should be fighting for a starting place. It’s the sharp end of the team that we can see a genuine opportunity for the players to be working together to forge the relationships needed to be dangerous next season and that’s where all of our hopes have to lie at the moment. Because behind those three or four players in the attacking part of the pitch, it feels like a bit of a car crash, and one that won’t be too easy to fix in the summer.
I look at a team like Liverpool and their attacking impetus and that feels like where we might have to go over the next two years. This season Liverpool have been very good going forward, but like us, a bit of a joke defensively. It’s stopped their assault on any kind of meaningful pursuit of City but as everyone keeps saying if they can get a half-decent defence sorted out then they’d be a good shout as a challenger. But Klopp, like Wenger, isn’t really seen as somebody who can build a defence. He’s bought in van Dijk at Liverpool and maybe he’ll be good, but from what I’ve seen they’re still going to ship goals.
Arsène Wenger has always historically been able to build attacking units in his team’s, but people talk about him not really doing it defensively, with the inheriting of the old Arsenal back four and the ‘perfect storm’ of the Invincibles team being just that good that it didn’t really need much input by Arsène.
This leads me to start thinking inevitably about a new manager and that idea that Arsène ‘inherited’ the old back four. Well, wouldn’t it have some kind of glorious symmetry to a send off for the manager if his parting gift to the club he has served for so long and delivered silverware to, would be the clicking of an attacking unit that means they can be left to their own devices when a new manager comes in? A new manager who can focus on sorting out an ailing defensive set up safe in the knowledge that at the other end of the pitch there are the quality players who will do what’s required in the acquisition of goals for Arsenal. That sounds like a pretty good plan to me.
Of course in order for this to happen we need to a) have an old man accept that he needs to pass the baton, b) get the attacking players gelling when they aren’t getting many games together anyway because of the stupid Europa League rules re: Aubameyang, as well as c) find a very good coach who can deliver on defensive solidity in this Arsenal team.
It’s a number of variables and of course it is difficult. But if we do manage to start to build for next season in mind I don’t see why we can’t just say ‘eff you’ to this season in May, with the hope that the team is in a good position to show marked improvement in the 2018/19 season.
What do you reckon?