Bit of a weird one for a Saturday blog today, because although it is a Premier League weekend, Arsenal don’t play until Tuesday, which means we’ll be watching all of the other Premier League games unfolding in front of us, without any real proper football at all.
From a personal point of view I’d rather we were playing in the original kick off time which I think was today at 5.30pm. It’s a bank holiday weekend, it means I get an extra longer one and as much as evening games can be fun, football on a Saturday is tradition in itself. I do wonder what the players and the manager think though. Are they happy that there is plenty of time to prepare for the visit of Chelsea? Or do they just want to get back on the wagon and get the stinging feeling of Wednesday night’s pasting behind them?
I guess you can argue for both sides. Getting back on the horse and trying to get back to winning ways allows the team not to think too much about what has transpired this last week. But when you look at how out of sorts some of those players were at the Etihad, then perhaps more time to recuperate would be better for all concerned. One things for sure though; there simply MUST be a response on Tuesday. Those Arsenal players are in very real danger of looking like a mere also-ran in this league if they don’t get back to winning ways. Victory against Chelsea is vital and with three draws and a defeat behind us at the moment, the concern I – as I’m sure you have – is the problem of crisis of confidence that this current team might be in after so many dropped points in recent weeks.
Mikel will certainly be having his toughest period this season right now, because he has to bring his players together to remind them of all that they have achieved so far this season. We’re on 75 points. We could get to 90 points and if we do, well, then we’ll have made such a huge improvement in output that these players should not forget. Those players need to remember that they’ve won 23 football matches this season. That’s not by fluke. Teams can go on winning runs, you can be fortunate to win a football match, but there is nothing fluky about winning that many matches in a season. So those Arsenal players need to come together, have a proper chat about what they’ve achieved, then they have to get themselves ready for what is sure to be a very stern test in the shape of Chelsea next week.
Of course there is a bit of work needed to be done by Arteta too, because he needs to find a way to close the back door up, because it’s been wide open and the draft it has been giving off has been rather uncomfortable indeed. 11 goals in four matches simply isn’t good enough. Teams have worked out a blueprint to play us and much like earlier in the season where teams were setting up in a low block and frustrating us, Arteta and his coaching staff need to be looking at the current set up and working out how they overcome the current issues. The answer earlier in the season was the arrival of Trossard who slotted in ahead of Eddie Nketiah (who admittedly was injured) and instantly unlocked the likes of Martinelli. We solved the ‘low block’ approach from these smaller teams and we went on another winning run. What we are faced with now is at the other end and it can’t be solved with a signing. So Arteta has to work out how we change our defensive misfortunes and he has to do it quick. It seems we all recognise that Rob Holding in our system doesn’t work, but what other options are there? I won’t go over the options that could be explored, because I did that last week in this blog here. But I do think we are now at the point where Arteta can’t keep doing what he’s always done, because he’s going to get what he’s always got since Saliba came out of the team; Chelsea will allow Holding to have all the ball, they will go long and look to beat our high press, they will use the City and West Ham and Liverpool approach of going longer and looking to win the duels against the likes of Holding. It is what I would do if I were Lampard.
So let’s hope that for this weekend the focus is on trying to find an answer to the Holding System problem. And I’m not sure it is as simple as pulling him out of the team. Perhaps it is a re-jig of the set up? Holding has always done okayish in a back three, so maybe that’s what we look at? Of course I am not his biggest fan and I probably would take him out of the side, but that’s if you’re going to play the same system as we’ve been playing, because it ain’t doing the business as it stands. And should Arteta change his whole tactical set up just because of one players inability to work in it? I don’t know. The worry is that he changes it, the players who have succeeded all season playing in a certain way, suddenly don’t know how to deploy the system properly, then Arteta has tinkered too much and we spiral even more. In the last days of Unai Emery at Arsenal he went in to full tinker man mode; we were playing a different formation in every single match as he desperately sought an answer to the run of terrible defeats. If Arteta goes down that road then he runs the risk of unpicking all of the great work he’s already done with this young side.
So I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t envy his task right now, because he has to change it, but I’m not sure whether he can or should change it that drastically for fear of the longer term repercussions.
It’s a puzzle-and-a-half he has to solve right now, that’s for sure.
Right, I’m off for the day – you have a good one and I may or may not catch you tomorrow – off to see some friends today and that might mean it gets a little messy tonight.