New manager, same problems

New manager, new start; one might have hoped for. But whilst one could detect some improvement in the way the team was asked to play it is clear that there is no quick fix; and certainly not one that a couple of training sessions could sort out.


I can't imagine that anybody could have guessed the line-up at Norwich with any accuracy. Freddie Ljungberg  was as full of surprises as his predecessor, with the inclusions of Kolasinac, Mustafi and Xhaka all difficult to anticipate. The reversion to 4-3-3 seemed sensible, but square pegs were being fitted into round holes; and in the case of the defence, entirely the wrong-shaped pieces!

Despite my misgivings about the personnel chosen, I was pleased with the start the team made. They were looking to pass the ball more quickly - and indeed forward - far more than before. And they should probably have been at least one goal up before the inevitable happened. My fault, actually; I was just thinking that that attitude and speed of play looked promising, but I'd be interested to see how they'd react to going behind... when that's exactly what happened.

And in a season-long theme, this was an entirely preventable goal. As, I may add, was Norwich's second - plus a host of other chances that Arsenal offered up. As we've seen before from this group, a combination of losing the ball, failing to track back and pick up runners, defenders failing to close down the man with the ball... it all added up once again to another busy afternoon for a beseiged Bernd Leno.

The key, of course, is not to over-commit going forward, and Freddie needs to look at that. If there's any comparison with an Emery set-up, it's that the full-backs, encouraged to push very wide and far forward, left gaps in behind that the central midfielders were unable to plug (and that's where both Norwich goals came from). As we've seen before far too often, the central midfield was conspicuously absent when they were needed. And that's why I'll say, at this point, that Torreira is a key member of the squad and the sooner Freddie realises that, the better.

Fortunately some mental fortitude - and a slice or two of good fortune for the first equaliser - meant that they got out of town with a point. But make no mistake, the team is lacking in organisation and confidence, and is currently in relegation form with just four points from its last six matches and no win since early October. That's what got Emery the sack, and that's what Freddie has to sort out.

Here's a list of immediate requirements:


  • Calum Chambers is not a right-back; don't pick him there. The sooner Bellerin gets fit again, the better
  • Mustafi should be nowhere near the first team. He is a massive liability. Whilst Sokratis has been fairly woeful all season, he is still a considerably more reliable defender than the German. And David Luiz is... David Luiz. 'Mercurial' would be a kind description for a man always with a mistake in him. The trouble is, who do you leave him out for? Either way, any combination of Luiz, Sokratis, Mustafi, Chambers and Holding is unlikely to give Premier League attackers sleepless nights. What could be worse than pairing Chambers and Holding ? They can't do much worse than what we saw at Norwich
  • Adding the unreliable defending of Kolasinac into that mix was an error. Tierney must play
  • As alluded to above, Torreira should be one of the first names on the team sheet. Of the midfield personnel Arsenal possess, he is the only one who could genuinely be regarded as having the mindset of a defensive midfielder. Which is of course the reason why Emery wanted him to play further forward (oh, and that was irony...)
  • You know what you're going to get from Xhaka. Which is not quite enough, due to his lack of mobility. However, when Guendouzi has a bad day - as he did at the weekend - you start to wonder if he needs a rest. Or if not, a lot more coaching on positional awareness, strength in the tackle and tracking back
  • Ozil on the wing? I'm sorry, but no. He doesn't have the pace for it. Put him in the hole
  • Lacazette; an enigma. Effective at home; poor away. Makes no sense. He escapes the away day criticism that Ozil gets, however, and I'm not sure why
  • I'd seriously look at giving Martinelli a Premier League start. A star in the making


  • With the team lacking confidence - and speed of thought when the ball is lost - I'd sit Torreira in front of the back 4 and tell him he's not allowed over the half-way line. I'd look to play Willock (for his energy) close to him and Ozil a bit further forward
  • What happens in Transition is what is hurting the side most. That's what needs to be drilled into this side; how to respond to losing the ball
  • Up front, things should take care of themselves. Aubameyang, plus any three from Lacazette, Martinelli and the invisible man, Pepe, should do the trick. Positional rotation from that group will keep defenders on their toes. The key to keeping the score down is what goes on behind them. Hopefully, the energy of Torreira and Willock will deal with that

New Manager

As I said in my last piece, an experienced man is vital for the team at this stage. And here's something to ponder; if a club are happy to fork out £50-70m on a striker, what's the problem with paying a £14m release clause to get your man? Brendan Rodgers, please. ASAP. Or Poch (no release clause!). Or at a pinch perhaps Rafa Benitez. Experience is key.


It's going to take a while to sort this squad out. After the last window, we thought that Arsenal had done well, but a centre-half is desperately needed in the next window (no, we cannot wait for Saliba) and hopefully by then some confidence will have been restored by Freddie. But he has to get the right pegs in the right holes!

It's no fun being an Arsenal fan at the moment, is it? Until Friday, post-Brighton. 

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