Category Archives: coaching

Arsenal Kids – A Place In Our Near Future?

This season has been one filled with searching.

In amongst the plethora of disappointment and underwhelming results and performances, we have scoured the earth for positives.

The Premier League has made for unpleasant viewing for quite some time, and winning a trophy has looked like a pipe dream. So going through the campaign requires a light at the end of the tunnel.

That shining beacon of hope has been our array of Academy talent that has bolstered our squad.

Bukayo Saka, Jo Willock, Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith-Rowe, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Eddie Nketiah. These kids have lifted us when we needed it most with displays that are far beyond their tender years.

When our squad has needed some urgent remedies, they have stepped up and now, our squad looks filled with talent. So much so that when considering potential transfer activity in the summer, we are now considering what new recruits would do to the future of these kids.

They are the future of the club, but are they one season wonders? Or does their talent match their work-rate?

In short, does their future lie as a bona-fide first teamer at an Arsenal that has heir heads craned upward?

 

Arsenal Kids

 

Bukayo Saka

They call a first season for a youth product – a breakthrough season. That slightly underplays what Saka has done for Arsenal.

He is our chief assist maker this season, far and away above anyone else. He covers more ground than most and has looked at home in neat interplay around the box with more esteemed players, so his talents are up to scratch.

All this glows brighter when you consider that two thirds of his starts have been at left-back and he is still a teenager.

There are still question marks about his future as this is his first campaign, but surely his figures and his tendency to influence games spell a prominent place for next season under Arteta.

 

Jo Willock / Emile Smith-Rowe

The midfielder divides opinion, and so does his permanent position. He has split his time between playing as a back up Number10 and a central midfielder – where is he best?

We have seen he has an eye for a pass and we also know that his energy is bountiful enough to play in central midfield, but it won’t be his talent that defines his immediate future.

It will be who he has in front of him. In the centre, we have Xhaka, Torreira, Guendouzi. They are all ahead of him in the queue. Whereas in the playmaker role, it is only Ozil that really stands in his way, aside from one of his Hale End brethren – Smith-Rowe.

Yep, the kid who is on loan at Huddersfield has made a bigger splash in terms of excitement than Willock and it is perceived that Smith-Rowe has the bigger future. So if Emile can make his loan spell a success, he will return in the summer with a great place on the squad ladder.

Willock though, don’t write him off. His pass success is comparable to not only Guendouzi, but pass master Ozil (84% compared to 88%) and his defensive merits stand up too. Willock has a future, but if he wants to avoid being a bit part – he needs to make an impact in one position.

 

Eddie Nketiah

The striker scored when he played at Leeds during his loan spell – but that wasn’t enough to further his development. He was recalled and he looked to be going on loan to another club, but when Arteta saw him in training, he realized that he was good enough to play.

That says much for the dedicated youngster. He shows a predatory instinct that comes as much with being born with it as it does with development. Nketiah is on the cusp though – he needs to make the most of the remainder of this season.

He has the faith of the boss and has already started since being recalled. He now needs to be dependable, and get some goals. Succeed and he will be our backup. Fail, and another loan or a move to an ambitious club looks to be on the horizon.

 

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

The midfielder turned right-back has an old head on young shoulders. He has made a real fist of his stint as Bellerin’s deputy and since Arteta arrived, Maitland-Niles has really stepped up. His stamina is up there with the best and his defensive work shows why he works well as a midfielder.

Trouble is, he has been so good at right-back that seeing him in the centre looks to be far off.

And now the acquisition of Cedric Soares sees him slip down the pecking order. Attributes alone mean he can forge a career at Arsenal in the centre, but AMN has a lot of obstacles in his way in either position…

 

Reiss Nelson

The winger was fantastic in Germany on loan, but injury has curtailed his seismic performances at Arsenal. He was prevalent under Emery but he is now only feeling his way back.

The difference for Nelson as opposed to the others is that he offers true width. We suffer from a lack of this and if he can get some minutes during the rest of this season, Nelson can leave Arteta feeling like he can be a worthy member of next season’s squad.

The future is bright, but this talented bunch still have plenty of work to do if they want to cement their Arsenal legacy.

 

 

The Ozil Environment

A victory over Manchester United is always something noteworthy.

We can disregard both sides’ relatively low positions in contrast to where we resided in loftier times.

For us fans, a win over one of our biggest rivals always matters.

One win in fifteen, our worst run at home since the 50s, our new head coach Mikel Arteta had his work cut out to not only get us back into some form of contention – but just to get us back up from our haunches.

And the manner in which he did that in this win was perhaps overshadowed the result.

We harried, we hustled, we gave no inch. Players like Rashford, Martial, they would have caused no end of torment to our ragged defence if they were allowed to.

But those two and their cohorts were superbly marshalled.

We had David Luiz rejuvenated, stopping everything in his path.

We had the much-maligned Granit Xhaka intercepting and distributing constantly, always in the right spot when needed.

We had Lucas Torreira in his natural position and he was a whirling dervish of action, putting himself where others fear to tread and winning the ball like it was going out of fashion.

Hell, we even had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tracking back, covering his full-back and covering plenty of ground.

Then there was Ozil.

The stereotype of Mesut Ozil should have evaporated by now. Stat upon stat of the German’s penchant for activity is all too often overlooked, but he yet again covered plenty of ground, bettered only by Torreira and Xhaka.

He also won the ball back more than any other team mate. Ten times all in all.

Those are numbers that any self-respecting box-to-box midfielder would be proud of, but this was our number ten.

Where was this Ozil when Emery needed him?

Arteta-Ozil

 

Was this simply a switch of tactics and instructions set out by a new boss?

No, it is down to man-management.

Unai Emery often left out Ozil entirely, not even in the matchday squad. It was a case of the Spanish coach drawing a line, letting Ozil know that it was his way or the highway. Play the way I want you to or you won’t play at all.

Eventually, with results withering, he had no alternative but to play Ozil, but with confidence low and the bond between coach and player at an all time low, Ozil had little to no impact on proceedings.

David Luiz was interviewed after our win against United, and his comments gave us all a peek behind the veil of times under Emery. Luiz spoke of the happiness returning to the squad since Arteta took over, which by means of common sense, speaks of a malaise under Emery.

The manner in which Arteta hugged his playmaker after the victory on the pitch speaks volumes, and Ozil is now trusted, he feels that he is valued. That means the world to the player it seems, and his efforts on the pitch may not have reaped an assist, but his efforts meant so much more.

All he needed was a coach who valued him.

Walking Off Pitch In Face Of Racism

You’re sat at your desk, your monitor filled with the inane characters that you are meant to make sense of.

It’s a usual day, and you’re attempting to ignore the clock that is taunting you with its sedentary progress toward 5pm.

While you’re responding to emails and setting up meetings, all the things that don’t actually matter, you see one of your colleagues stand up.

They then start performing an impression of a monkey, complete with arm actions and noises.

They then rope in others, and all of a sudden, you have a cacophony of primate sounds – and it is directed at you.

All because of your skin colour.

Would you stand for it?

England boss Gareth Southgate and his squad have faced opposition from the Bulgarian FA after Tammy Abraham and other members of the team declared they would walk off the pitch should they be subject to racist chanting.

England Racism walkout

 

The Bulgarian FA have argued that this is “unjust branding of local spectators as people inclined to discriminatory behaviour.”

This is anything but unjust.

The game in question was played partially behind closed doors, with 5,000 of 46,000 capacity to be left empty. Why? Because Bulgarian fans were found guilty of racist behaviour against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.

This isn’t just having a reputation, this is fresh conviction. Their fans are known to have a racist element and of course, our media pressed the English players into answers should they be inflicted with the same.

There has been a fresh, and needed, focus on racism in the game recently. Pushed by figureheads like Raheem Sterling, it has been welcome to hear global names talk on the subject.

Playing Bulgaria, much like when England played Montenegro recently, brings with it a chance for racism in the stands. Do the players have a duty to carry on in their roles even in the face of such hatred though?

Not a chance.

In any other workplace, this simply wouldn’t fly. What does a players earnings have to do with vilification and infringement on human rights?

If a man or woman is subject to racism, sexism etc, then the gloves are off.

For too long, the approach has not been stern enough – and that is why bodies such as ‘Kick It Out’ are still in place, existing long after they should be. Racism shouldn’t have a place in sport.

Sport has always been a leveller for all classes, and man, woman and child should be able to enjoy the action without fear of such hate.

Should the Bulgarian fans rain down abuse at any game, I for one look forward to their reaction and the attention it brings. Without this, then racism will always be a part of the game we adore.

The very fact we are going into a professional football match with an inkling of this to be expected, brings shame to the game’s governing bodies. Every week we hear new stories, especially in Italy, of players being subjected to chants based solely on their skin colour.

This must stop sooner rather than later. The very fact it exists shows that the preventative measures in place right now are simply not working.

So, walking off to end a game prematurely might just be the moment the game stands up and finally wakes up.

 

Moving Machinery At Club Needs Time

The managerial merry-go-round that has beset Unai Emery and Arsenal is something we have not been privy to as Gooners.

With Arsene Wenger’s tenure being far longer than the average club manager, for more than two decades we watched on as the men at the helm of Europe’s top clubs were put under intense scrutiny from the moment they arrived at the training ground.

The window’s given to new appointments were made smaller and smaller. The margins for error shrunk as the money being offered for success bloated. Some spells at clubs lasted about as long as the equivalent as a period of probation does at a regular job.

We were lucky, but we all knew it would end and we would have to strap ourselves in to the ride. Unai Emery was the man tasked with seeing us through the choppy waters of transition between the old regime and the bright new dawn.

The Spaniard seemed to have all the tools at his disposal. He had enough coffers to purchase who he needed. He had a nucleus of a good squad that could compete. He had the experience necessary to oversee success.

Arsenal though, are a club in flux.

With the many new faces at the club that have arrived in the last eighteen months, it means that processes are still being ironed out. Ways of working, relationships between different facets, they are still being ironed out.

The likes of Raul Sanllehi, Vinai Venkatesham, Josh Kroenke, Huss Fahmy, Darren Burgess, Edu Gaspar, Freddie Ljungberg, Per Mertesacker – all of these, plus a raft of departures – constitute change, and a requirement for trial and error. A bedding in period to smooth off the rough edges.

When we recruited Sven Mislintat, we rejoiced. The man known in his country as ‘Diamond Eye’ was a real coup and because of the breaking down of his relationship with Dortmund, Mislintat was available and we struck while the iron was hot.

It was the right move. Anyone with Mislntat in their ranks stood the chance to find some very important players. The German though, was to find that boundaries were still being drawn behind the scenes and Mislintat’s ambition would have to be kept in check if he was to stay at the club.

Mislintat wanted to be responsible for more than just talent spotting and he was thought to be favourite for the role that Edu now sits in, but it didn’t transpire.

Instead, Mislintat left the club after a very short period of time. It didn’t work out simply because things between the men who pull the strings at Arsenal are still being decided, regimes and processes need to be refined.

The-Clock-030224AFC

For a machine to work seamlessly, the cogs that comprise the inner workings need to be aligned.

We have many cogs in our machinery. They are the right fit for Arsenal – but at this moment they are not quite in synch.

Each of the men who have been hired were recruited because they have skills we wanted.

In order for us to unwrap those skills and put them to use, we need to wait for the dust to settle and for them all to communicate. Time is the only thing that will allow us to see Arsenal operating as we – and they – know it should.

It’s frustrating, but it is something we need to endure.

Regardless of Emery being sacked and now having Freddie at the helm, we need settled regimes behind him in order to gain the best from the resources we have.

After twenty three years of serenity, changing the direction of the ship we are on was always going to take time.

Emery Sacked! Why Now And What Now?

The club could endure no more it seems.

After another defeat and the seventh consecutive failure to win a game, it seems that the loss to Eintracht Frankfurt was the last straw for the now departed Arsenal Head Coach, Unai Emery.

His tenure ended in strangely eerie circumstances. Ticket restrictions for home fans and a ban on away fans gave The Emirates a suitably soulless atmosphere, for what was yet another abject performance.

A failure to inhibit our opposition whether home or away, constant erroneous performances and our inability to recreate even a portion of the style we are branded for, accumulated on Emery’s shoulders and with every dropped point, his knees buckled further.

The club were rumoured to want to give Emery until the end of the season, but it became abundantly clear to all that Emery would have been incapable of turning around our season, so Raul Sanllehi, Edu Gaspar and Vinai Venkatesham were left with a dilemma.

Either sever ties with Unai and bring in Freddie Ljungberg on an interim basis, or stay with Unai and see how bad things could get.

Luckily, they saw sense and Emery is now a former employee of Arsenal, just 18 months after signing for the Gunners.

It seems to have been a rapidly made decision, as players were unaware that the decision had been made this morning – and so was Emery who headed training this morning as usual. The squad were called for a meeting after training to announce the decision, and the only way is up in terms of results.

Image result for emery sacked

Arsenal and Freddie now face the task of resurrecting our season, but the first step for the Super Swede will be to find our character that has made us a global brand. Coming from possibly the best team we have ever had, it should hopefully come naturally to bring back the good football that the Gunners are accustomed to.

 

 

So Emery is no more.

 

Who next for Arsenal?

The Ozil / Emery Dilemma

How far does a manager go to instill his values and rules upon his squad?

The parameters that the man at the helm puts in place will ultimately define the team, but what happens if one stray sheep doesn’t conform, and strays from the herd?

In an effort to stymie attempts from other players to follow suit,  does the manager lay down the law in the form of punishment, to show that the rules must be followed?

Unai Emery is in between a rock and a hard place. It has become apparent through comments made by the Spaniard that Mesut Ozil has not met the desired standard in the training regimen that has been set.

The result?

The German has been omitted from the entire squad for around two months of the season.

Even if you are not a fan, it is plain to see that our fortunes on the pitch in terms of style, have been severely hampered by the lack of a playmaker.

Chances have dried up, the pace of the ball being pinged around? Pedestrian. Our star strikers have been feeding off of scraps or creating openings themselves through their excellent set of skills.

The moment that Ozil was reinstated to the line-up was our Carabao Cup exit to Liverpool – and we scored five goals.

Yes, Liverpool were a weakened side, but the form we were in during that spell would have meant that if Ozil wasn’t in the eleven, we would surely have struggled to reach that amount of goals.

Our number ten kept the ball moving, stretching play, popping up in pockets of space and sprinkling in moments of genius, like his no-look backheel from the byline to the only player who could have received the ball.

This isn’t meant to indicate that Emery has made the wrong choice though. The words in this article are pointing towards a choice that Emery couldn’t possibly hope to pick the correct one – because there isn’t a right choice.

Ozil and Emery

Include Mesut Ozil in the side – and player power has won.

Leave him out of the side, and at the merest hint of a struggle, critics will point to the megastar left out of the side.

Emery had a power struggle in his time as PSG manager, as Neymar has a little more sway than a player normally would. The Brazilian is seen as indispensable to the eleven – or was – and there was only going to be one winner.

Now, we have arguably our most talented player flitting in and out of the side, and posting cryptic images on his Instagram in an apparent act of defiance. It leaves the unity of the squad frayed – and our performances compromised.

Mesut Ozil will obviously impact our team on the pitch. His end product went missing last year but in terms of keeping us on the front foot and always playing the right pass, there is no one better.

Star players shouldn’t have things their own way though. If we put them on a higher pedestal, it means they will define the rules, and the values of the club will be broken as a result.

No one player is greater than the team. We have had far greater players in our midst than Ozil and they have never rocked the boat – even if they did, the rock-solid rules of the club would not show a crack.

The moment this changes, then Arsenal FC as we know it, and have known it since its birth – will be completely undermined.

The solution to the Ozil – Emery predicament?

I’ve no idea – I don’t get paid millions to figure it out!

 

How Long Is Too Long For Emery?

The rumours persist, the names keep coming like a torrent.

As long as Unai Emery continues to struggle, then the likes of Mikel Arteta, Freddie Ljungberg, Jose Mourinho and Maximiliano Allegri will be tacked onto stories emanating from the media, revolving around the beleaguered head of Emery like a flock of hungry vultures.

The Spaniard would, on paper, appear to be on borrowed time. A run of no wins in five games has seen Arsenal slump down the table, creating a chasm between our club and the hallowed berths of the Champions League.

It isn’t only results that have set us fans frothing and seething, as well as set the assorted media into a frenzy.

Arsenal have lost their identity too.

Even in the lean Wenger years, we had an identity. We were just as likely to concede five goals in one game as we were to win at times, but we always played in a manner that was a joy to behold. Even when the squad was more threadbare than a Poundshop welcome matt, we still managed to put together moves that often bewitched the opposition.

Under Emery, we appear to be lost at sea. It could be a combination of our players reportedly being unclear on instructions, being played out of position like Lucas Torreira, or simply lacking the conviction that comes from having belief in the man leading the club.

If a player doesn’t think the manager is the right man, if there is an inkling of doubt, then that will shine through in performances.

Pressure Emery

Emery has been given a vote of confidence by Vinai Venkatesham and Raul Sanllehi, and according to reports, he will not be sacked anytime soon – but if this run continues, then surely there can be only one way to go?

Our rivals and neighbours, Tottenham, have just sacked their long-time incumbent Mauricio Pochettino. This was because of a sequence of results that saw them slump to a position and points total eerily similar to ours.

It prompted chairman Daniel Levy into action. Does that mean that the club that was forever in our shadow, now hold themselves to standards higher than our own?

If Sanllehi and Venkatesham believe that patience is key to Emery bedding down his methods and seeing the results blossom, then after a whole season, shouldn’t we now be seeing this in some form of improvement?

Last season, Emery can be excused for what was a mighty close call to being a successful first season. Yes, our squad flopped over the line when it seemed easier to succeed, and the Europa League final will forever haunt us in terms of being one of our worst performances in quite some time.

But two matches away from finishing in the top four and winning the Europa League? That would have constituted a good debut season for Emery.

So that whet the appetite for what we would see this coming campaign.

Instead, we have been the footballing equivalent of driftwood. No identity, floating instead of heading somewhere. Aimless.

The alarming stats regarding Bernd Leno making more saves than ANY OTHER keeper at this stage of the season. The amount of shots we are giving away per game is higher than ANY OTHER side at this stage. The number of shots on target we are registering? In the last three games, we amounted six shots on target – cumulatively. That is one less than Leicester City registered in their 2-0 victory over us in just one game.

Emery has left us rudderless. Have there been any signs that this is going to be turned around?

Pochettino built up plenty of patience and goodwill in his time at Tottenham. Yet that counted for nothing when it came to the team struggling. With mounting debt and the Champions League money fading away should they miss out this season, Levy acted quickly.

Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Leicester are walking away with the top four spots with no fight from us or Tottenham. Our neighbours have pushed the button to remedy their situation, in the belief that a change at the helm will get the best from the current squad and that Pochettino was no longer capable of turning it around.

Emery has had time to do the same. Sanllehi and Venkatesham have the belief that it is only a matter of time before Emery’s way will shine through and that we will begin to claw the deficit back.

With the likes of Mikel Arteta, Freddie Ljungberg, Mourinho and Allegri being possible candidates and seemingly easy to get hold of, Emery must know that in three or four results time, his number must be close.

How long before we blink?