We’re off and underway with the Arteta era and although it’s hardly the barnstorming away victory that I think we probably deserved given our dominance of the ball at times yesterday afternoon, there were certainly positives to take from what we saw against Bournemouth, so I’m hoping to focus on those a little more than the negatives in today’s musings.
These draws are killing us though. I’ve never known a season like it and as we hit the halfway stage we’re on just five victories, five defeats, but nine draws. A very less probable outcome at the start of the season UK casino sites would have predicted. It’s why we’re so low down the league and when you consider that both the Totts and United won at home yesterday it serves to highlight just why we’ve slowly slid down the league. We just aren’t converting those points.
Yesterday we just weren’t converting the chances either. Arteta named a team that I guess in hindsight was difficult not to change much. In defence injury and suspension is forcing his hand and in midfield we have Xhaka and Torreira who are our best two central midfielders. Arteta went with the old ‘Auba wide’ malarkey with Lacazette central and whilst previous games have seen him disappear a bit when out wide, I thought yesterday it was telling that he seemed to put more of a shift in than I’ve seen before. He certainly tracked back a lot to support Saka and whilst the youngster wasn’t exactly sparkling yesterday (his end product was pretty budget too when he got into wide positions), he’s a kid so needs protection sometimes. I think he got that on the left and I think Maitland-Niles did get it on the right.
So I think some of our senior players did step up and we certainly controlled the first half in terms of our defensive third and the middle of the pitch. Xhaka and Torreira helped with that and I thought Lucas was superb in his distribution and ball-winning. I lost count of the times he tigerishly won the ball back from a Bournemouth player.
On the sidelines you could hear Arteta barking encouragement at the players and it was obvious that he had been quite explicit in what he wanted us to do:
- Win the ball back higher up the pitch
- Quicker rotation of the ball
- Forward players supporting the defence a little more
- Create pockets of space for the likes of Özil
- And yesterday Özil had his best game of the season. He was able to drift into pockets and when he was found all of our good build up play went through him. He was pulling the strings and we need that to create chances, which we did, more than at any stage this season (check Orbinho’s Twitter timeline for the stats on that).
- The only problem was that we were wasteful and unfortunately the chances didn’t all fall to Aubameyang. Instead they fell to Lacazette – who was terrible all game yesterday in both finishing and passing – as well as Reiss Nelson, who looked as promising as he was frustrating, with some poor crossing and shaky decision-making at times. It feels like both of those players need a goal and we only have to look at how Pepe exploded into life after he got his to show what it could potentially do for them.
Speaking of Pepe, he was out until the last ten minutes and given how impressive I thought his cameo was I can only assume he’s not fit enough yet to get 90 minutes under his belt. He was subjected to another scissor tackle and I just wonder if these knocks he’s getting keep setting him back a little. One can only hope he can be fit for Chelski on Sunday. If we could have him available for then at least it gives Mikel some thinking to do because Nelson or Lacazette should probably be dropping to the bench given their profligacy in front of goal.
Bournemouth created a few worrying moments but in the main I thought we dealt with their threat well and defensively we were much more compact at times. Invariably though, despite the positivity, we still went behind with one of Bournemouth’s only shots of the first half. It cane from our defensive left and there was probably a little too much ease in which the Bournemouth player got to the byeline but we’ve got an 18-year-old winger playing at left back right now so you can hardly chastise him too much for switching off. That’s what happens when you’re a kid.
That’s also where you need your coach to protect them too and you could see that perhaps Nelson’s performance had him on a little bit of a downer at the end, but Arteta visibly had his arm around him and I hope that does him the world of good to know his manager will have his back. This game didn’t pan out as we’d hoped it would be we did see enough to see a change in what the team want to do under our new manager. They want to win the ball back higher up the pitch, track back certainly in the wide positions to avoid being overloaded with our inexperienced full backs, plus we have to appreciate that Arteta is having to put players into his system that might not fit the characteristics of the players he needs to fully implement his footballing vision.
This season is done in terms of the league and it’s now about preparing for next season by getting the system right, getting the right players for that system, so we can see what a true Arteta side looks like. We do need to start winning football matches and there’ll be no bigger statement than a scalp like one of United or Chelski in the next few days. Let’s hope another day or two on the training ground can prep us more.
And let’s hope they practice finishing a little more as well.
Catch you all tomorrow.