The usual five talking points ahead of today’s Premier League fixture away at Crystal Palace.
Players bringing the ball forward!
Remember when Arsenal defenders and midfielders would play the ball straight to an opponent in their own half? Well, you don’t need long memories as it’s still happening, but it was interesting to hear the Ornacle (David Ornstein) on his Athletic podcast earlier this week state some of the stuff the new head coach is instructing. He said: Arteta is telling them: ‘Do not release the ball until an opponent is committed.’ It’s a small thing but it’s something perhaps slightly different to what was being done before. So, wait for the opponent to engage and commit themselves and then release the ball or move forward with it until that moment arrives. Me, I love to see players running forward into space with the ball. I used to enjoy the buzz when Tony Adams brought the ball out of defence at pace, simply because there was a gap to do it. In David Luiz, Arteta has a player more than capable of doing the same. Forward Arsenal! anyone? A bit of front foot, a bit of confidence, a bit of assertion. Excuse my enthusiasm… it’s been a while. Imagine if the Gunners could put a run together and actually make the top four after the season they’ve had so far? It would put them among the king of comebacks in football history.
The little matter of Wilfried Zaha
I have been watching the ‘All or Nothing’ documentary about Man City’s 2017-18 campaign on Amazon. I’d not really been too fussed before Arsenal hired Arteta and then some clips were posted showing his work. This didn’t involve our new head coach, but in a game against Palace, Guardiola was delighted with the way Kyle Walker negated Zaha to the extent that he switched flanks. Sokratis certainly doesn't have the pace to contain the Ivorian winger, so you’d have to imagine Ainsley Maitland-Niles will return to the starting eleven. It will be a huge test and he will need support from a colleague, most likely Lucas Torreira. The simplest option would be to stop the supply to the Palace dangerman.
Rob Holding was distinctly rusty
Arteta won’t have been pleased with Rob Holding’s passing against Leeds, but we do need to view the rest of this season through the prism of growing pains as the players have to do things they are not used to. Holding is presumably marked down for the long term, whereas the likes of Luiz and Sokratis certainly aren’t. So Holding’s got to learn. It will be interesting to see who is picked next to Luiz in the centre today. I suppose you could argue that Sokratis is hardly Johan Cruyff either…
Here’s another Arteta quote from the build-up to this game: “For me the most helpful thing for [eradicating errors] is communication. If you are consistently communicating with your teammates around you it makes you stay focused on what is happening all the time. If you don’t talk to each other there are always moments or gaps when your focus can go, and the back four can’t have those moments.” It seems so obvious doesn’t it? And although we can’t be privy to the communication that does happen on the pitch, the evidence in recent years is that there hasn’t always been enough. Of course, language would be an issue – for example, Gabriel never mastered English, so when he and Rob Holding played in the same back four, who knows what the protocol was. At least all of the current options speak reasonable enough English. Imagine if the team were to achieve three clean sheets in a row!
The Prospect of Ceballos
Arteta has expressed his admiration for Dani Ceballos, and if there seems to be a player that would suit what the new head coach is trying to do at Arsenal, you’d say that, along with David Luiz, Ceballos is it. Against Leeds we saw Xhaka and Guendouzi in midfield. It wasn’t the most effective combination at controlling the game. There’s little doubt Lucas Torreira will return today, but might Arteta be tempted to see what Ceballos can bring to the party? In some respects, there’s an argument to say that he can do what Xhaka can, and arguably do it better. At some point we are going to see Ceballos, it’s simply a matter of when rather than if. Today might be the day
Roy Hodgson’s Palace at home this season have struggled against better sides. Four wins – versus Villa, Norwich, Bournemouth and West Ham. Three draws – Everton, Wolves, Brighton. Three defeats – Man City, Leicester, Liverpool. They aren’t going to be relegated and will probably end up in the top ten. They currently sit in 9th place, one ahead of Arsenal who have gleaned a point less. It would be a real sign of progress if the Gunners could post their first away win under the new boss, and match the result achieved by the teams in the current top three positions. Here’s hoping…
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