Unai Emery isn’t looking back. The coach says we must improve. I’d agree. While the results (since those pesky early losses) have been impeccable, they only look easy in retrospect. And, easy is just how it is when it comes to taking those points for granted.
Leicester City? Are they the formidable champions from just a couple of seasons ago or are they the club that has found themselves fighting against relegation in the seasons since?
We shall see. In the meantime, while we wait for our match, what might be gleaned from thinking about and maybe watching some of the other football?
Moo-United travel back to the club he haunted (perhaps) more happily. By dint of winning the early–and extremely up and down–match against Arsenal, Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea team sit tied atop the Premier League and can heap more misery on Mourinho. From an Arsenal perspective, we probably want United to take at least a point at Stamford Bridge; Joe-Say might want the quick exit, but the longer things fester on the red side of Manchester, most likely, the better.
In the 3 o’clock matches are a few derbies. Bournemouth currently sit sixth in the table and host their South Coast rivals Southampton. Meanwhile, Spurs play West Ham at the Olympic Stadium, while Burnley must travel to town to play at Manchester City. The game I’m interested in, however, is Watford venturing to the Black Country to play at Wolverhampton. Both teams are solidly in the middle of the table and feature as much in the way of continental (mostly Spanish and Portuguese) talent as perhaps we’ve got in any of the weekend’s matches.
Huddersfield Town host Liverpool in the late game. You could call that one a Greater Manchester derby too, and, while no game is easy, we’re talking about a club that clawed its way into the Premiership through the playoffs and somehow stayed up against one of England’s biggest and most in-form clubs.
(Sunday, supposedly, we’re supposed to suffice with Everton-Crystal Palace. Seriously? Everton are in the mid-table morass while CP are only in the single-digits-won grouping below. There could be some strategic/tactical interest in how their managers approach the match, I guess…)
Fulham came up by way of the same route as Huddersfield yet Gooners have seized upon our most recent match, a 5-1 victory in their home stadium, as something of a stylistic turning point. Finally Arsenal looked good–at times REALLY good–in beating the cottagers. Can we continue? Not just with the winning, but with a brand of football fans might really get behind? It’s getting deep into the autumn but we’d still like to keep on (or start truly) enjoying the fruits of Emery’s football. Results first, of course, but some swashbuckling “getting our Arsenal back” football would also be lovely, no? I’m feeling less greedy; really I’d just like to ground myself a bit further in what the new manager is after.
As such, if I can rouse myself–and the espresso is working for me–I hope to watch the neutral football with an eye to how these teams are setting up and playing the game. Which teams are attacking? Who’s playing on the counter? Do ANY of these teams actually want the ball. Are any trying to play the attacking football former manager Arsene Wenger espoused? Is Emery’s approach different or is he (only) the latest in the growing(?) cohort of coaches who seek to strike before teams can set their defensive lines, often in the split seconds of transition when control of the ball switches from one team to the other?
If Arsenal are part of a larger trend, is it one that favors park-the-bus teams? (Certainly we’re not one of THOSE quite yet?…) Maybe it was Leicester City defying the odds to win a PL title that really solidified this approach. Or was it Mourinho’s dour style in his Chelsea (Internazionale and Real Madrid) stints that set the groundwork? Guardiola and Klopp, with their pressing from the front, are the new wave and those moments when they can force turnovers and recover the ball in their opponents’ half come regularly and with plenty of excitement. Call it (Pep’s) Ronda-style or (Jurgen’s) Gengenpress or even (Emery’s) Protagonismo, but it all sounds about the same to me. Unfortunately, I feel I must use the term “sounds” (instead of “looks”) because we haven’t really seen much of an Arsenal press-from-the-front as of yet.
But, what am I missing? You tell me. I feel, after all the seasons of watching Wenger’s teams and knowing what he was after, that I’m almost emerging from a cocoon. Certainly it was easy enough–in years past at least here in the Goonersphere–to dismiss folks with novel formation and tactical suggestions. Not so now, but I’m just learning. Are there (other) English teams you like to watch? What about on the continent? How has the game changed? Is anybody playing attacking, possession-based football (Wenger-ball?), and should they? Frankly, I miss it, but, on the other hand, I don’t mind the winning we’ve had (lately) at Arsenal.
Don’t be shy, tell me what I’m missing (and where to find it)…
Go on then…
(In the meantime, picture me–waiting for Monday night–like these old dudes…)