Welcome to another Monday folks. I watched yesterday’s game between Chelski and Leicester and although I found myself chuckling in to my lamb shank I’d prepared for evening meal, upon reflection I shouldn’t have been chuckling as hearty, because Leicester are no mugs and they’ll pick up plenty of points this season.
They play decent football and have some very good players and whilst Rodgers is a little bit of a parody boss in the Premier League, he does know his stuff and has been backed, so this wasn’t as much of a setback for Chelski as I initially thought.
I guess a draw is good for us then if both of those teams may be challenging towards the top end of the league and what it also hits home – even at this early stage in the season – is how important picking up wins like ours was on Saturday. You simply have to win those home games against so-called lesser teams and, to an extent, you also need to do the business away because this league is getting tougher from teams around eighth or ninth, all the way up to third, assuming of course that City and Liverpool will be walking first and second place this season.
When the fixtures first came out I saw these first two games and thought “if we drop any points in either two, we’re going to have some players questioning” but now that we’ve got maximum points it does feel a little like next weekend against Liverpool is a ‘free hit’. Because let’s face it, we have a terrible recent record at Anfield and not only that, we seem to ship goals left, right and centre against them.
Last season was a joke again with a 5-1 defeat although I’d like to think VAR will have least stopped the Salah dive for a penalty. I say ‘like to’ because as we saw this weekend with the City/Totts game, it still isn’t full proof. The stonewall penalty by Lamela was missed early on and then the ridiculous ‘handball’ chalked off City’s winner. As if Tottenham didn’t have enough rub of the green last season, they seem to be able to have it ignored for them this season, so it seems it’s ‘as you were’ from the football authorities with them last season.
But enough about that dirty collective of humans, let’s focus back on us and the build up to next weekend’s game against the scummy scousers. It’s a full week of prep for the game and one thing Emery has been saying this weekend is that he thinks we’ll be more competitive at key points in the season. I certainly hope that means the sharp-end in April and May because that’s when we folded like a house of cards. I suspect he’s talking throughout the season and specifically with injuries though because he cited current absentees as an example of why he thinks we’ll be better.
It’s hard to disagree with that and especially given the financial outlay the club has made. Despite losing a number of players on a free this summer, to me we feel stronger and more balanced as a side. Some of the players that caused frustration last season – Mustafi, Elneny, Iwobi and Mkhitaryan – are either not here, possibly not going to be here soon, or just not as close to getting in the first XI and with that in mind it does feel as though we have a better and more balanced look about us. We have lost somebody very good in Aaron Ramsey, but we’ve gained Ceballos, a different type of player, but already looking like a special one.
Emery should also be more aware of his players and I suspect we’re going to get less halftime subs than we did last season. I know Pepe came on for Nelson at halftime at the weekend but I think that was more to do with the knock Nelson picked up and as a result speaks more to protecting the player than a tactical shift.
And that’s also what I’m hoping has changed this season because I’m hoping we have a little bit more from a tactical style developing. It all felt a little too ‘mix-and-match’ last season with the changing of formations but if Emery and the Arsenal back room team have started to mould us a little differently as a team, then that’s a positive we can take, and I do think there is something a little different in the way we’re trying to progress the ball. Perhaps it is something as simple as some of the players we have i.e. Willock, Nelson, Pepe, but it feels like there is a little more pace and desire to move the ball quicker and transition the ball from front to back on the wings quicker. It might just be me and with two games it’s hard to tell, but I’ve seen little pockets of football suggesting that we can catch teams colder than we did last season. There was the interception Maitland-Niles made at Newcastle, then the quick back-to-front with Pepe and Auba which should have made it 3-1 later in the game on Saturday, but these instances I am hoping are not just isolated. I hope it speaks to a style and better balance of play from Arsenal from now on.
I don’t think next weekend will be a true indicator of how we’re going to get on this season because I’m expecting us to get beat. However if we can show a little bit more steel about us, if we can keep the goals down for a change, then come away having looked like we’ve got a bit more about us in the big games, then I’d be more than happy and take that.
Perhaps you think me a little too defeatist but I like to think I just know where we are. I have high hopes for this Arsenal team this season and I’m hoping that we start to see little signs of it, even if we are beaten away next Saturday evening.
Catch you all tomorrow.