It’s all a bit quiet on the Arsenal front today. No game until tomorrow and we have a press conference that will probably take place tonight in which the manager and a player will give us an update ahead of tomorrow nights crucial game against Napoli.
The most important bit of news will be who is available in midfield. First and foremost we have to hope that Lucas Torreira is fit and ready to go in to the first team and if it means we see less of the backwards and sideways Denilson 2.0 in Mo Elneny then the team is already stronger. Sokratis will – assuming he’s fit – play despite not being available domestically and so the hope is that we have no other bumps and bruises and that Koscielny returns for the game.
I talked about Mavropanos a lot yesterday but it won’t really impact much at the moment as the manager won’t play him, but I do wonder if the back three will remain at home. I certainly hope somebody asks him that tonight. He won’t give an answer but at least if somebody asks him we might be able to glean something from his thinking. We were better – albeit not by much – when we switched to a four on Sunday for the first ten minutes but I suppose that’s because of the introduction of Ramsey. So if you add Ramsey and Torreira to our midfield it instantly feels like we have a bit of dynamism about us compared to Sunday.
So that’s all I’m really hoping to find out from today’s press conference: players are fit and we are going to see a different side from the Everton game. I mean I know we will anyway because we’re at home, but it gives a little more comfort when we have upgraded players available too.
Something has to be sorted about the away from home issues though. We’ve changed a few personnel but it does feel like there is some kind of psychological issue with this Arsenal team away and I’m not sure how you overcome it. There is just a malaise that envelopes our play. The passing is sluggish and when my untrained eye watches it, it feels like players carry the ball too long, which invites tackles and losing of the ball.
We also don’t seem to take the same chances in terms of that final ball. In the first ten minutes before we conceded against Everton Lacazette was put in on goal and I thought to myself “if we get those kind of chances again then we’ll win this” but as soon as the goal went in for Everton it’s like every creative player retreated in to their shell. We stopped taking those chances, players like Özil and Mkhi dropped deeper and deeper to collect the ball, whilst Everton were able to press higher up the pitch and force errors.
By those two Arsenal players dropping deep it also meant that the space between Lacazette and every other Arsenal player was a chasm. It rendered him – and also his pressing of defenders – relentless.
And what worries me about that is that the team couldn’t see this and rectify it sooner. It’s worse that even when the manager did rectify it by making halftime subs and switching to a back four as a 4-2-3-1, the players didn’t really kick themselves out of the malaise. Ramsey gave us a ten minute injection for the second half but we just retreated in to our shells again.
I have no doubt Arsenal will look to come out with a point to prove against Napoli but that we will probably provide an equally insipid performance against Watford is a massive worry for me. I just hope my concern is ill-founded because I don’t think the Europa League is going to be easier to get in to the Champions League than domestically. I hope I’m wrong.
Anyway, I think I’ll leave it there for the day. More thoughts on a pre-match blog tomorrow.