I always love this time of the season. As Lisa Simpson once said about the time after they’ve been to Church “it’s the longest possible time before we have to go again!” And I couldn’t echo those sentiments more.
International football is boring, dull, slow, plus my choice of allegiances are fixed to a team with Harry Kane and Deli Alli in it. No thanks. I’d rather take a big swerve on it altogether.
But now we have a few months stretching out ahead of us where it’s Arsenal all the way and after a couple of stuttering results it’s time to refocus on the best bits, which are Arsenal Football Club, this weekend against Watford.
And as if to recognise the desperate thirst we have for ‘content’ the club released an interesting The Breakdown with Adrian Clarke where he went through the opening few games of the season. As like many of us he lamented the back line, but interestingly enough he focused on our defensive frailties as a whole collective i.e. the whole team, rather than the back four that make up our defence.
I think that makes sense. Unai Emery needs to get the balance of our midfield working better and with all of the positivity for the individual performances in midfield with the likes of Willock and Guendouzi, you can’t argue that at times they haven’t been as protective of our defence. We’ve conceded five goals in three games and whilst many of which can be looked at in terms of the individual errors costing us in each match, we’ve known that’s been our game for some time. So with that in mind, surely having a midfield which can offer a little more protection, should be one of our key focuses moving forward?
I think Unai needs to work on those midfield partnerships. Guendouzi looks like a good player who always looks forward in the pass and will happily try to press on if instructed. But he isn’t so great in the other direction and so for me that needs somebody who can mop up behind him. The obvious choice is Lucas Torreira but Emery seems reluctant to use him. I don’t know why, although I’m hoping it’s because he’s still coming back to full fitness, but when you look at the combative nature of his game it feels like he’d be a good fit.
Then, if we’re playing a three man midfield you’d look at somebody like Ceballos as the man who can link play between that midfield and attack, but also somebody who can cover space in our defensive third. He’s hardly the greatest defensive midfielder in the world and of course hasn’t been bought for that, but he will put in the yards and cover the space, which feels like it’s what Unai Emery wants.
Of course that does leave questions over Xhaka and we all know Emery enjoys playing him regularly, but as the season unfolds it feels to me as if he’s going to be forced to start thinking of a life without the Swiss. It’s not just the errors that should lead him down that route, but the other personnel we have, because if you’re playing Torreira deeper, do you really need a deep lying distributor?
Perhaps. Perhaps in those games where teams press and leave space and we need a player who can spot that pass from deep to release our front three so we have more overload 3v3 situations, his vision would be useful, but whilst we all talk about the need to play the front three together I do wonder if we should start thinking about a middle three as well.
I think Emery needs to settle on who it is and what type of midfielder do we need in each position. Then, if injuries and suspensions kick in, we need understudies to step in who are match fit and ready. Who is a deep-lying, ball-winning, midfield alternative to Torreira for example? If we lose Ceballos who do we bring in as the eight? Willock maybe? And if he settles on Guendouzi ahead of Xhaka, who is the understudy there? Because Xhaka and Guendouzi don’t do the same thing on the football pitch.
I do think it’s time Unai started making some decisions. It feels like it would be beneficial for all of us if he did.
We’ll get an update today I reckon from the manager on team news. The official site said that Holding is back in the team and I reckon he makes the bench on Sunday, but the hope is that we can also see Bellerin and Tierney soon. The official site said September so I reckon next weekend against Villa might see some action for one or both of them. That will certainly be welcome. Feels like it’s been a long time coming!
Catch you all tomorrow.