Let’s be honest: how many of us had expected a total turnaround now that Emery is gone and Freddie is in charge? I reckon quite a few. Not sure what this would be based on other than a romantic notion that any change will bring instant bliss, even within just a couple of days.
Instead it is: the villain is dead, long live the villain?! Well it definitely isn’t that either. Ljunberg is bringing home a point, which given the circumstance is anything but bad and, most probably, more than Emery would have done; but most importantly, the Swede had us play attacking football again and instilled enough character and perseverance in the team to overcome Norwich taking the lead twice. In the end, the Canaries had won at home against Citeh already and came back from Goodison Park with a precious win last weekend: that is a tough psychological combination to overcome in an away game…
Furthermore, he was brave to play Mustafi in defence and to reinstall Xhaka in midfield. It was also impressive that he opted for youngsters Guendouzi and Willock in midfield, whilst allowing Ozil to play with both Auba and Laca in attack.
Norwich sat deep and played on the counter and we pinged the ball round in their half looking for opportunities to score. The latter was not great and it should not come as a surprise that we are still vulnerable to counter-attacks. Ljunberg and the BFG have their work cut out but we knew that, and it will not be solved instantly. But most importantly, we played attacking football again and that goes a long way.
Freddie had his first session on the wheel and it will have felt both great and scary. He will have learned so much from it and I expect subtle changes and improvements in our up and coming games.
PB has written some excellent player reviews and they will be published soon, so I will make some more generic comments regarding Freddie’s Gunners in action.
- Leno was beyond superb. Such great hand-eye coordination.
- Freddie went for powerhouses Chambers and Kola on the wings but both struggled to make the required level for a top PL team. First touches need to improve and so do the passing and final balls into the box.
- Mustafi is more dynamic than Big Sok but he had an unfortunate game. The BFG may be able to get renewed confidence in Frantic Skod but yesterday’s performance was alarming.
- Auba scored twice and that was great and many will argue that Laca did not have a great game. But when it comes to adding to our attacking build-up play I would say Laca is a much better field-footballer than Auba, and this is just as important. If we only play three attackers they all need to be good footballers and not just excellent finishers, and I am not sure we have the balance in attack right.
- Now we come to Mesut Ozil, who looked keen to me and was desperate for a few fellow players on the pitch to play Arsenalesque football with (oh how he will wish for the days with Giroud and Sanchez). Laca was isolated and kept the Norwich defence busy, Auba I just discussed, Guendouzi likes to hold on to the ball (often too long), Xhaka sits deep, the full backs are technically quite limited (as discussed) and only Willock (and Laca) link up well with him. So there is another key job for Freddie and Per to get sorted: our passing needs to get slicker and much more deadly and this will take time.
- I was surprised not to see Torreira start and I hope this will not become a trend. Torreira and Xhaka in midfield supported by Willock/Guendouzi, either next to them or slightly in front, looks the safest bet for balance and power in midfield…. I applaud that we are going to play attacking football but we need to stop cheap as chips counter-attacks against us when we lose the ball deep in the opponent’s half. In my humble opinion, LT11 is paramount in this.
- Other than our bouncebackability to overcome two setbacks and more attack focussed football, there was another positive: the away fans were in great spirit again and supported the team throughout the game.
- It is easy to go and pick on individual players now but surely we have to give them time now that we have a new (interim) manager with new ideas and tactical adjustments. Freddie and the players will need all the support we can give them and we have a big role to play in this. So let’s focus on the positives at least for a couple of months.