Morning folks and welcome to another weekend. This weekend sees us play at home to Aston Villa and having faced 55 shots on our goal in the last two games, I’m sure Bernd Leno is hopeful for a quieter afternoon tomorrow.
We are too open, giving up too many opportunities, we are behaving naively at times and yesterday a video emerged on Sky Sports ahead of the televised game with Emery talking about how as a whole unit we need to be more compact and improve on our defence.
I don’t think you’ll find many of us have any complaints with that. We’ve looked a shambles defensively and certainly that is a continuation from the previous two seasons. There must be a formula that Emery has to find to arrest this defensive fragility because simply speaking it just hasn’t worked. Emery spoke about the whole team being better in defending but I also think you need to play the right players in the right positions. For example in Frankfurt we saw Lucas Torreira playing much higher up the pitch than you’d expect him to. He’s a defensive midfielder, a good one at that, so we should be playing him at the base of our midfield.
Last season I thought I saw the start of a good combination in Xhaka and Torreira at the base of our midfield and whilst it wasn’t perfect, it did provide more cover and close more space with Torreira acting as the engine room. We need to get back to that and I just hope Emery starts to use the Uruguayan more often. Let’s start with Sunday. There will be players like Aubameyang and Xhaka who will play having played on Thursday night, so let’s not have the excuse that he’s not quite ready, because he’s had a couple of matches under his belt and now’s the time to bring him in.
We’ll also soon get our first glimpse of Bellerin and Tierney together and having played 60-odd minutes yesterday in a friendly against Wolves last night, it’s great to see both players on the verge of a first team return. Of course they won’t be ready for Sunday and I’ll be surprised if they’re ready for United away, but maybe they’ll play some minutes against Forest in the League Cup next week and then we can see just how far they are.
That will bring a welcome boost I think. Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles are good going forward but as we’ve seen in the last two games we have players who leave too much space in behind when we are defending. I know Maitland-Niles didn’t play against Frankfurt but we still had a similar game to Watford. The only difference was that we didn’t give gifts to Frankfurt and the result was a 3-0 victory in the end.
Against Villa tomorrow you’d expect us to be better going forward than in defence but long term we need to see us perform better defensively in our full back positions. Maitland-Niles has also done an interview in which he’s admitted he’s not a defender this week, so I just wonder if Emery should be looking at giving him a shot in central midfield in a game or two, when Bellerin has returned? It could work. He’s a guy with energy and pace and who knows, he could be a great defensive midfielder with a box-to-boxers engine room, which would potentially also give us more options there because right now we have Torreira and that’s it.
And I think that’s caused us problems. Ceballos isn’t a DM. Xhaka isn’t a DM. Guendouzi isn’t a DM. Willock isn’t a DM. Torreira is the only one that fits the bill but because of his late return from international duty in the summer, followed by the recent international break we’ve just had, we probably could have done with cover in DM over the games we’ve played. Instead that potential cover has been covering at right back.
Whatever the manager decides to do over the coming weeks, we have to stop what’s been happening because we’ve done silly goals against Burnley, Liverpool, Tottenham and Watford. It feels like nearly all of those goals conceded were avoidable and so what we need to see tomorrow is a team that doesn’t give away gifts to the opposition. We’ve done enough of that. It’s time to stop it now.
Catch you all tomorrow.