Morgan's Magic Snowplow
- Jul 2, 2006
It was a poor performance but I don't think it stemmed from a lack of desire or any of the players not being up for it. My sense is that it was a combination of things - a very young team overwhelmed a bit by the moment, a number of key players running on empty after playing 90 a few days beforehand and at the end of a long season, thin squad depth forcing substandard players without a future in the squad into key roles like Cedric, Elneny, Tavares, and Nketiah, and all that going into a match against a veteran and well coached Newcastle on eight days of rest playing with their hair on fire urged on by 50,000 lunatic geordies delighted at the new direction of their club.I was debating whether to reply in this thread on the players vs. manager discussion, but decided against. Then I read Xhaka's comments and now I think it's worthwhile to jump in:
So, what was Arteta's plan, and why did the players abandon it? Just because the players didn't execute, doesn't mean that the plan was good. For example, if you play MANC and the manager says we have to dominate possession, well you can't blame just about any club in the world for not executing that plan. But getting back to yesterday, do we have any idea what the plan was and why it wasn't executed?
I was far from a neutral yesterday, but outside of the first 10 minutes and some rare spells in the second half, Arsenal just didn't look up for it. They were second to every ball and lacked cohesion, especially in defense and midfield. TBF, the attacks looked threatening when they got on the ball, but they didn't get nearly enough service and didn't convert.
Losing Tomiyasu was huge. I'm incredibly impressed with the player. However, Almiron didn't create that much trouble down his flank after Tomiyasu came off--most of the attacks, including the first goal, came down the other side. Is holding a starter? When I saw White and Gabriel were starting at CB I thought that boded well for Arsenal. I remember several good defensive plays from them in the first half. The defense down the flanks though, not great Bob.
I'll hang up and listen.
Tactically, my guess is that we had some specific plans in place for how to play through their press and we just didn't execute them for whatever reason. In my view that was the key dynamic in the match - they pressed intensely, we didn't execute well enough in possession to actually play through and hurt them. And if we couldn't punish them we were never going to get the result because this team in its current form can't keep a clean sheet.
Arsenal's better form earlier in the year began with the ability to control matches, to create a decent if not huge amount while giving opponents hardly a sniff, and we lost that completely with Partey and Tierney getting hurt. While Arteta often gets criticized for his management of certain players, I think his biggest weakness is that he has designed a tactical system that breaks down very quickly if his first choice players of sufficient quality aren't available. Partey was basically the engine of the team in possession in the 4-3-3, responsible for both playing through pressure and for shielding the defense almost by himself in transitions. Someone like Elneny just can't step in and do the same job either offensively or defensively. Tierney was really the only PL-quality left back in the squad and we've been horribly vulnerable on that side in every match since he got hurt.
In the 13 league matches from early December to the end of March, when we basically called on our first choice eleven almost the whole time, Arsenal had seven clean sheets and conceded only nine goals. In the nine matches after Tierney and Partey got hurt, we had zero clean sheets and conceded 16 goals. Even when we won big matches against Chelsea and United, we never really had control, it was up and down football and hope the ball goes in once more for your side.
The silver lining in all this is that the team was legitimately very good in that stretch when Arteta could call on 11-12 players who have the attributes to play the roles he wants in his system. And there is good reason to think that we'll add another 4-5 players like that this summer. Very disappointing end to the season but, for me at least, still a lot of positives to take out of this year.