By Bulldog Drummond
Both the Mail and Telegraph have reports on Mikel Arteta saying that Arsenal play better without fans. He’s probably the first Arsenal manager to say something along these lines since Herbert Chapman denounced the “boo boys” back in the 1930s.
The Mail actually has Arteta saying, “When they play in front of 80,000 people it is much harder”, which is ok since we don’t play any league games in grounds of that size, even when there is no lock down. But whatever the numbers, everyone seems to have caught up with the point we’ve been hammering for a long time – one of the problems for Arsenal is the sizeable minority of negativists and AFTV watchers who enjoy the gratification they get from spouting their views about how awful Arsenal are while remourcelessly booing the team.
As the Mail continues, “The Emirates has often swelled with discontent in recent years and, after a fourth successive win in all [ie both] competitions, Arteta thinks some of his squad are benefiting from playing behind closed doors.”
But Arteta did concede that some players play better with a crowd adding, “Others need that extra motivation, extra pressure, extra passion to perform better. Every player is a bit different,” while also agreeing that in the victory over Wolverhampton the players seemed “less rushed.”
The manager also said that he had (in the words of the Mail) been putting “his language skills to good use,” as they report “Arteta revealed he has been barking out instructions in Spanish, English and French, in part to stop opposition managers knowing what he is saying.”
The interview also included a comment on Guedouzi saying “some things have to change” for him to stay, while in contrast Arteta wants Dani Ceballos to stay adding “he’s becoming a really important player for us. We are talking to (Real); obviously we don’t own the player, he’s not in our hands so the clubs will need to have a communication and see what we can do.”
And the Mail concludes, “The Emirates has occasionally been a hostile stadium for Arsenal’s players this season, especially during the final weeks of Unai Emery’s reign.” But amazingly many “fans” deny they have had any negative influence.
So, although we are not yet at the situation where the “last six games” table just reflects the new reality of games behind closed doors it is showing an increasingly relevant chart of current performance.
Leicester’s experience is a patchy mix containing just two wins in the last six, but in which they have still managed to score nine goals and conceding four, which means they are likely to bring a packed defence to the game tonight and go for the breakaway.
It will be interesting to see if they try to return their tactic of multiple tackles, hoping to get far fewer fouls given against them per tackle than any other team in the league. Watching a video of them I am wondering if they are getting away with it simply because the sheer volume of tackles leaves the referee unwilling to blow for foul after foul after foul. (Details of that analysis are here – full links below)
The table of the last six home games is particularly interesting, although it does of course include only one game from before the days of lock down. However there is a chance that such a good run at home could carry Arsenal through, despite the lack of a home crowd.
This hope is bolstered bolstered by the fact that Leicester have had a poor time away from home both before and during the crisis.
|8||Brighton & Hove||6||1||4||1||6||7||-1||7||
Just one win away from home in the league in the last six, but an unexpected 6-6 in terms of goals although half of these came in their away win against Newcastle. More anon.
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