So, I’ve not posted for a while and there are several reasons for that. These would include far too much work being put onto me by my university at a national level, where they want to be seen as a bigger player and leader, and a son with autism (high functioning) who struggles to learn how to interact with people, but wants most of all to be a (known) “part of a crowd”.
If you look at these and think it through, as I did after reading Gerry’s fine post and watching some highlights from Anderlecht, you’ll note that the same issues that affect my university and my son to an extent, affect Arsenal’s midfield. And it’s the middle that causes us strife.
So, first things first, I am in southern Belgium (again), in the land of Standard de Liege, so no one here thinks it was robbery, or anything other than perfect, that Arsenal stole victory from the jaws of defeat at Anderlecht. Just to assuage any guilty feelings.
Now, back to the topic at hand. I am writing this, by the way, before going to hopefully watch Arsenal vs Sunderland. So, if it turns out this is all wrong after that game, then it’s because I cant foretell the future (which is true as I question my workload and life choices). If it turns out to be true, just credit it to my general, all around genius!
So, the problem in a nutshell?
Everyone is trying too damn hard to be the star, the star creator and the star scorer, and the star of the highlights. We have no one who is willing to play their (single) role and just get it done regardless of how they look.
Midfielders who do the day to day work, Arteta would be one, get no press or play. They are also worth less in transfer fees etc. Now, while Arteta may (or may not) be reaching the end of top football, I think we can all agree he plays a single main role and sticks to it. He gets double points in my book for doing it in a role he may not be perfectly suited for.
Flamini might well be the same. Or not. Hard to tell sometimes.
After that, Ozil, also injured, plays one role and when allowed that role in the 10 slot does it well. And then gets no credit for not doing other things.
For every goal there are players working hard at doing things that aren’t noticed and don’t get credit that are just as responsible for the outcome. Instead, we see too much one man trying to dribbler two or three instead of making the ball do the work, or everyone trying to occupy the space where the last pass will lead to a goal. Or making the hard pass that is intercepted rather than the easy one also forward, that won’t make the highlight reel.
I don’t often agree with Steve (another poster) but he made a really good point that everyone clusters to the middle. I would add that everyone also tries to do everything or at least far too much. JW, AR, Ox.. All trying to be everywhere and do everything at once. And thus be the star. Perhaps it’s the fear of failure leading to mental lack of strength and confidence that is the cause, and has been speculated on a fair bit in the tattle-sheets. But, it’s there…
Our problem in another form then: we currently have a team of stars, not a star team made of stars. That is what differentiates us from Chelsea right now. Rather ironically, in trying to be a bigger name in the show, and doing more, the center gets crowded, everyone gets in the way of everyone else, we lose width and thus negate the pace we spent lots of money on this summer. Oh, and we also end up playing rather averagely and well below our talent level – regardless of injuries and who’s on the field.
I agree with jw1 who recently noted that a consistent line-up is useful. But still, at this level, they could still do better than they have. Why? Because, we aren’t playing football, we are playing my-ball more so. Even when Ozil was uninjured, he was often surrounded too closely by players and not enough were away, or off the ball pulling defences wide and just occupying space to threaten. I take again steve’s point, and he’s a guy who doesn’t fully rate Ozil, “imagine if Ozil had 4 attacking players to pass to”. Imagine indeed, especially if they were all spread out across the width and north/south. And there’s our problem again…
Yes, everyone wants to be the next zillion dollar creative player… And they are all trying hard to show it’s them.
When we play this way we also violate one of the first rules of football. I.e. make the ball do the work! Instead, we try to do all of it player by player, and not as much as a team. When everyone is trying to be the leader, there are far fewer places for the ball to go any distance to make it do any work. This makes defending us easier than it should be given our players. And again, we suffer and have to work harder than we should.
Equally, and succinctly, too many want to be “the big player” or “a major part of the team” and in doing so try too hard. Instead, they should do one simple job, stick to it, and we are likely all to end up better for it as a team.
Some anecdotal support of what I am saying?
Consider Galatasaray, who played 3 at the back narrow and 5 in the middle to clog it. That left gaping space we didn’t ignore out wide. As a result, less in the middle and we ran riot with talent. Aston Villa, much the same.
Player by player?
Ramsey – last year played to stay playing and was equally an assists man as a scorer – just playing all around good football. This year, playing to “do more” trying too hard and getting less.
JW – huge star but he is always trying to do too much, which is likely his downfall. He does best set back, not because he is better there but, in my opinion, because his natural nature is to try to do too much and sitting deeper removes or reduces that issue to an extent.
Ox and the occasional Rosicky – cannot stay outside, it seems.
Add that all up and suddenly one can have 4-5 players, including Welbeck, all sitting top of the box in the middle relying on backs to come forward to keep width, and far too many forward. The end result is we are one turnover and long pass from an exposed back line.
Succinctly, everyone is trying to be the single creative guy and the scorer possibly as well. But no one wants to be a cog in the machine or the guy who pulls the defenders wide so the others can score.
The end result is we don’t get any creativity, we stifle players like Ozil and Welbeck (and others like Sanchez) from being their best, we expose our back line the same way hackers exposed Jennifer Lawrence, and thus pay a huge price.
Just not trying too hard and doing one thing well should be easy, but, it seems that may not fly with today’s player?
So, the solution. Not steve’s no creative players line-up, though it was interesting! :) Instead, some mild sedatives and one instruction to do one thing and do it well. Back to the KISS principle about keeping it simple (insert S-word of choice here).
Anyway, I hope to be proved wrong vs Sunderland, and then you can all rubbish me in the replies…
Or to summarise, we need to step back and simplify to make a big step forward. To end where I began, every day I start with my son by talking with him about how trying less hard will lead to the friends coming to him rather than him always chasing social success. If my university would listen, they would hear that I cannot do every national leadership job unless they want less of something else – not without doing it all averagely.
When we have played our best, we have as fans tended to blame the other side. But, look at the games and you see one thing. When we play our best, we play simple football that isn’t crowded. And good things come directly from it. Just like I try to tell my son… See, good football is like life! :)
Now, I am off to watch the game and have some Belgian beer (Westmalle I think). For you? Some thoughts to consider?
- Will Theo, who loves the sideline, be a major impetus to help us out?
- Am I right about Ozil and others?
- Is the fact we have players trying too hard, both fatiguing them too quickly as well as leading to injury (or some of them)?
- Or, am I totally off my rocker (always possible!)?
Written by: JGC.