It would seem that peoples’ feelings arising from the weekend’s game at the Emirates are similar in nature depending on who you talk you or what you watch or listen to. They merge into a general discontent with an edge of optimism that better fortune may be soon to arrive. As this is being written before the Wimbledon game which could serve as a minor bonus or a mild cramp it is necessary to look at the medium-term story in order to figure out how this current early season predicament can be solved.
The anguish of team selection is felt again..
The manager’s team selection for Arsenal again caused many people anguish as he announced a midfield with three wingers, if you count Masuaku that’s possibly four but no starting place for Yarmolenko. Further eyebrows were raised when he brought on Hernandez for the injured Arnie (who incidentally is also a winger by trade).
The lack of substance and solid possession winning players meant the utopian attacking counter punching system Pellegrini so loves only lasted an hour and then everyone was knackered. There were some nice touches by Masuaku who is beginning to look like a player without a position. This may have been potentially solved by Pellegrini taking the purists advice and playing the ever- improving Anderson behind the strikers “good article here”:https://thisisfutbol.com/2018/08/blogs/premier-league/west-ham-fans-rave-about-anderson-v-arsenal/ and then moving Arthur up, in future supported by Cresswell or a suitable LCB depending on formation. Only a combination of terrible luck and a bout of acute idiocy prevented us turning many of these attacks into goals against Arsenal and I’m sure wherever he plays, Anderson will continue to offer outlets we have been missing post Payet and minus Lanzini.
Thinking about the medium term..
How might the medium-term future look? This is a classic question and every expert has an answer to ponder but as a discussion point this is what I reckon. Now we have some properly decent players, should we go back to what worked so well not so long ago and play basically safer, thinking man’s football somewhere in-between Bilic when it worked and Curbishley. What I mean by this is revert to a back five with three centre backs (Diop, Oggy, Balbuena), Cresswell and Fredericks. They can overlap blah blah blah allowing your Wilsheres and Sanchezes to drift back and forth without panicking there’s no cover. This would sort out the 9 goals in three games problem and must be considered a more viable set-up to take on what are clearly very fit and well drilled oppositions (as we expect in the Premier League!). I’d also agree with 4-4-2 ‘solid back four’ die-hards but wouldn’t include Hernandez as the second striker as there’s just not enough happening.
Improved tactical coaching with respect to who goes with which runner would also prevent the hot knife through butter counter collapse we have been prone to since the move. This would also set up nicely for making finer adjustments to how attacking or defending we play as we now have a squad with players full of different attributes. The point is ultimately if this manager does become a success it will be because we stop conceding goals so easily and the fact we have to discuss this, three games into a season, is just a bit worrying.
If you are a big big tree…
A second question I would pose is this business of chopping and freezing player who make mistakes in games. I’m sure there may be some underlying reasons such as small knocks etc but Rice, Ogbonna, Antonio and Fredericks have all felt the icy chop of Pellegrini’s no forgiveness policy and I’m not convinced this is the way to go. One minute you ’re part of a well-oiled team, the next you’re not even on the bench with scapegoat written you your forehead and then, when the replacements are predictably no better you are expected to jump straight back in! Just to really rub it in Snodgrass starts every game, I feel harsh as he hasn’t done too much wrong but if we are playing the chopping and changing game there must be room for improvement somewhere. It will take a while for Pellegrini to find his heart on sleeve starters, not that we have an awful lot of time. It will take a while to find a formation which works with his players of course.
As much as I cannot believe we have arrived at this concept once again, like a recurring Blair witch nightmare, Carrol is not too far off of his obligatory 8 games of fitness and if we dramatically improve after the international break with him playing I for one won’t be surprised due to his defensive work-rate in clearing dangerous balls and generally being a pain. Looking into this week, essentially the Wimbledon result should not make a huge amount of difference, it is just a small turd on the pavement of fortune (not the club the game itself). How we cope against a well rated, proven Wolves team will be crucial in deciding whether we are getting it sorted or digging a bigger hole. The only sure thing we can take from all of this is that if we don’t stop conceding goals and spurning golden opportunities to score then we are in trouble. The only way to rectify this is to make a final decision on who can and who can’t and let’s get them playing like a team with a purpose rather than a bunch of nervous wrecks who constantly fear the icy chop of Pellegrini’s balsa wood axe of indecision.