Where Can We Improve?
I am as much as a loyalist as anyone who frequents this site but I thought it might be interesting not only to review areas where there is room for improvement (after all nothing is perfect), but to do so constructively. Tony has already written a piece around non-footballing issues so I won’t cover that.
So, I will work through a list of commonly expressed criticisms and review what steps, if any, are being taken to address (assuming the criticism is valid).
This is far and away the worst problem that we have had over the last five or more years. Our incidence of injury is 2 or 3 times higher than it should be. However I won’t rehash all the possible reasons for this but, instead, look at what we are doing about it.
Firstly, the club has invested a huge amount of money in medical facilities over the past few years – albeit with little to show for it so far – but hopefully we will soon start to see the benefit.
Secondly, the club has hired Shad Forsythe, the former German national team fitness and conditioning coach. It remains to be seen what impact he will have – but he seems to be highly thought of. My one caveat is that he didn’t join us at the start of pre-season – being on international duty – so will have been unlikely to have had much input into the design of the programme.
Beyond that, I remain unconvinced by the medical personnel given the correlation between the departure of the previous doctor and physio and the onset of our injury issues – although let’s see how this season goes.
Poor Execution of Transfer Deals
This is a tricky one. It seems clear that Ivan Gazidis and Dick Law may have struggled somewhat in their earlier days – and, let’s be honest, David Dein was a hard act to follow – but matters seem to have improved over the last couple of years. My sources tell me that Dein has not been completely absent from the scene – but has acted more in a coaching/advisory capacity.
The issue of course is that people want to buy:
– The best players
– For the cheapest prices; and
– Business concluded early in the window.
In the real world, at most only two of these are achievable at the same time. In fact, often it is only one. Nevertheless, we seem to be becoming increasingly effective at getting our targets at acceptable prices – and are also managing to secure decent fees for outgoing players.
So, if there was a problem, it is definitely being addressed.
Difficulties Breaking Down Parked Buses
Last season, in the end, we usually managed to do this – but often after making fairly heavy weather of it.
Our preferred approach against teams who sit back is to focus on retaining possession and continuing to move the opposition around in the hope that, as they tire, gaps will start to open up.
Indeed, this often happens as evidenced by the significantly higher number of goals Arsenal score in the latter stages of games than early on. One wonders whether a full-on surge early on – particularly against weaker opposition – may be more effective? If this is successful an early goal will force the opposition to come out more from where they can be hit on the break – where we are strong – as well as reducing everyones’ stress levels!
Perhaps our more sedate approach is due to the need for the team to warm into the fairly intricate style of play we adopt? However this does conflict with the magnificent teams we had 10 or so years ago where we would frequently destroy teams in the first 10 or 15 minutes of games before strolling through the remainder of the game.
Inability to Come from Behind to Win
This has not been greatly remarked upon. However, apart from West Ham who kindly rolled over for us twice having taken the lead, I can’t recall too many other victories last season after trailing – although we didn’t go behind very often. This issue is, I think, related to the previous problem (parked buses) except amplified. There may also be a psychological issue in that now at least two goals are required to win the match – and we usually do need to win rather than draw.
The key here is to stay calm, don’t go chasing the game immediately, but retain morale. Then, as the game enters it’s latter stages progressively increase the tempo – and keep going to the end.
Poor Performances against Top Rivals Away from Home
To start with, the problem last season was very much away from home – which sometimes gets lost. At home we beat Liverpool and Spurs and drew with Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd and Everton. Not marvellous but not bad either. Away from home we beat Spurs (albeit quite fortuitously I thought) but lost to the rest, often heavily. I think there are several reasons for this.
1. Being harried out of our possession focused approach early on and thus being unable to get a foothold in the game – at least not until the opposition tire in the 2nd half by which time it is sometimes too late. Liverpool, Everton and Southampton away are all good examples of this (although it wasn’t too late at Southampton – we probably would have won were it not for Flamini’s red card as Southampton were exhausted).
2. Having fallen behind early, recklessly chasing the game straightaway rather than regrouping. Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City are good examples of this.
3. Circumstances: Coming off a tough away trip prior to Man City, and being short of players for the other matches (remember the sickness prior to Man Utd).
I would suggest a good way to approach these matches would be to start off very tight and hopefully wait for the opposition storm to blow out – and then not to panic if we go a goal behind. I think it is significant that the one game we did win (Spurs) came after a very early goal in our favour – I don’t think we played well that day at all, but the goal meant that it was psychologically satisfactory to sit back. So we did, and defended very well.
- The Big 7 clubs, how much they spent and what good is it doing?
- What the media won’t tell you about football 5: Fifa lends money to Switzerland
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 4 – referee variations
- The final transfer rumours: 3 new names to make 66 players tipped for Arsenal
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 3 – referee home bias