In the aftermath of Sunday’s pathetic second half capitulation many people wondered aloud on social media what Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made of our shambles of a defence. After all, he’d done his bit by scoring two goals, yet still we couldn’t come away with the victory that we should have given the respective quality of the two teams.
Well he had his say after the game, stating that the side were ‘literally’ giving goals away and although he stopped short of pointing the finger of blame at any individuals, it’s patently obvious that he is feeling frustrated right now.
And why shouldn’t he be? He’s an elite striker in absolutely peak form and bagging goals every week for us. He’s doing it in the toughest league in the world and by rights he should be plyjng his trade at a team who is fighting for honours at the top of the division. Yet here he is having to deal with utter clowns like Sokratis and Luiz essentially throwing points away with their stupidity.
If I was in his shoes I’d be furious; of course he can’t really be public in my anger, I’d certainly be letting my team know about it.
I’d also be letting the manager know about it and I certainly hope that Unai Emery has his thinking cap screwed to his Barnet right now, because even 48 hours after the debacle in Hertfordshire, I’m still thinking that the coach is as culpable as his defenders for the mess we were served up at Vicarage Road.
Take the first goal for example. Clearly the defenders are told that at all costs they must play out from the back. That’s obviously a coaching tactic. Yet if they were given licence to use their brains a little more we may have seen a little bit of a mixture of our style.
It’s not just as simple as going long though. As Charlie said on the radio/podcast last night (will be available later today here) on the one or two occasions we did go long on Sunday it was a ball up top to an isolated Aubameyang, then an isolated Özil, where Watford players surrounded both and we were under pressure. Our team is set up for the short ball playing out from the back. But we don’t set up for a longer ball and so we lose possession because bodies aren’t as high up the pitch when we go long.
It’s basic game management that any professional football team should be able to deliver. The goalkeeper picks the ball up, ushers to his team that we are going long, which is the indication for the midfield and the attack, as well as defence, to squeeze the space between the lines of our team set up. That way, if we don’t win the first header, there are bodies there who can mop up any loose balls or at worse close down space.
This is really obvious schoolboy stuff. The fact I can tell you about it demonstrates that because I am a fan who hardly has a wealth of experience of managing/coaching football teams. Yet our coaching staff haven’t instilled a proper sense of game management into our team and for that some serious questions need to be raised.
We also talked a little about these extremely short balls from goalkeepers to defenders and for me a really good point was made. This new rule that has come in meaning defenders can stand inside the box is actually hampering our team. If you think about what used to happen last season: our defenders would take up very wide positions outside of the 18 yard box and nearer the corner flag. By playing the ball out wide from a goal kick we were wider from the goal and as a result the risk of the farcical happening like Sunday’s goal concession is reduced. Had Sokratis been standing on the 18 yard line there’s no way he would have risked a ball to Guendouzi because the danger of Deulofeu winning the ball would have been even more obvious.
We shot ourselves in the foot but the way in which the new rules played against us also caused us issues. The answer? You don’t have to stand next to your ‘keeper on a goal kick.
That is a lesson Sokratis has learned and I’d love to say it’s a lesson that won’t be repeated by Arsenal but we make more mistakes than any other team in the league so I’m not holding my breath at this stage.
So all we can do is hope that our strikers keep bailing us out. We will always score goals whilst players like Aubameyang and Lacazette are on the pitch but we’re also going to be a car crash in defence and right now, sadly, there’s very little that can be done about it.
Catch you all tomorrow.