Morning y’all and happy Tuesday unto thee. I’m playing Lockdown2 countdown at the moment by visiting my local watering holes in the evening and sampling the amber nectar they have on display. It’s not that I particularly need to be having a beer every night, but when that smooth taste of a draught of beer is about to be taken away for a while, I feel like I need to savour every drop. There’s also the whole ‘giving money to small, local businesses’ which I’m trying to do my bit for.
Although I’m currently in moderation mode so only really having one a night and when you look at the current table, that’s needed, because it looks weird. I mean not Liverpool at the top, that’s expected, even if they have been fortunate already in a few results if you ask me. But the teams up there and the fact everyone is dropping points.
The most scary is seeing the Tiny Totts already up there and bagging goals. I know they’ve cheated their way to some – see Kane’s penalty at the weekend for one – but the last thing we need to see at this stage in the season is Mourinho getting it right.
That’s enough about that scummy lot though; how about us after that weekend? Well I guess you could say that the good news is that we’re only four points from the top and although our league position doesn’t look great, we’ve played Liverpool, City and United away. That’s three traditionally tough games and we’ve at least picked up three points. It leaves room for some optimism and whilst Tottenham and Liverpool have arguably better sides than us, injury problems and some issues defensively that both sides have give me cause for hope that we can close that. What we need is a run of form that sees us picking up a number of back-to-back wins. The next game we have is in the Europa at home to Molde, then we are home to Villa adnd the hope has to be that we can arrest their positive early season form. We’ve got the ‘Big Six’ monkey off of our back but despite the fact we’re yet to draw a game this season, I can’t help but think that problem of drawing too many games because we didn’t convert enough chances against the so-called ‘lesser’ sides, is still a nut we’ve yet to crack.
The game at the weekend was a great performance, but we still didn’t break down United in open play and that has just left a smidge or two of doubt in my mind for games like the two we have coming up in the next seven days. Dundalk frustrated us, Leicester frustrated us, Sheffield United in the first half frustrated us; Molde and Villa will be well aware of that and we have to have more in the final third than we’re showing.
That’s why I’m hoping that Arteta deviates away from the front three of Aubameyang, Lacazette and Willian. I don’t want to dig the knife in to players in an Arsenal shirt, but the more I look at Lacazette, the more I feel like his race has run. I just don’t see that he offers us much threat at all and despite a few goals at the start of the season, I thought at Old Trafford he was poor – average at an absolute push – and that’s not good enough for our ambitions. Arteta last week talked up the possibility of Aubameyang through the centre although he stuck with his game plan at the weekend. Ultimately it worked, but I can’t see Lacazette getting away with too many more performances like that and for that reason I have a feeling we’ve got a change coming in the post. We’ve got to change it at some stage, right? We can’t keep getting these stuttering front line performances and not shift something.
Arteta has – at this moment in time – built a team which is very solid defensively. As it stands we’ve got the best defence in the league in terms of goals conceded (as mad as that sounds), but at some stage he needs to shift gears in the final third. I know changing personnel will not solve everything instantly, because we still have players who are flattering to deceive, but I do think we need to move away from that front three.
I also think we need to take more risks in the middle third of the pitch and I think Partey will bring a bit of that. But here’s an example: at the weekend there were at least two occasions where I saw Kieran Tierney with the ball on the left hand side, Saka making a quick forward run beyond the United right back. If Tierney slips him in then he has a run inside his man and we could force United back running towards their own goal at pace. But on both occasions I can remember Tierney stopped, checked back, then came in field to his centre half.
I’m not trying to dig out Tierney in this occasion by the way. Instead, I’m just using this as an example of how we need to be able to take more risks with some of our passages of play. In Saka we have a guy who will make the runs. In Aubameyang, we have a guy who doesn’t want possession of the football, he wants to be on the end of a move and finishing it. On the right hand side Pepe is similar; he wants to be involved at latter stages of a move and he wants to be running at defenders. Bellerin and Pepe haven’t played too often for too many minutes of late but as Hector is showing more and more with every game, he is becoming more important and more adventurous as he gets more matches and better match fitness under his belt. If Bellerin is given licence to overlap Pepe like he did at the weekend with Willian, I think it creates more space for our Ivorian and that can only be a good thing if we’re looking at giving him the perfect platform to deliver what we all hope he can in an Arsenal shirt.
But this isn’t just the players. In my mind some of that is the manager. Kieran Tierney has shown he will look for that ball down the line, but his pragmatism has come in part down to how structured Mikel is setting this Arsenal team up. I’m ok with us being solid defensively, having a stable base, but I think the manager also needs to let go of the reigns – just a little – so we get that balance right.
Let’s see if the next couple of games bring that about.
Catch y’all tomorrow.