Unai Emery’s pre-season-seasoning of the Arsenal continued this morning as Arsenal drew 1-1 with Atletico Madrid in Singapore thanks to a fine goal by young Gunner Emile Smith Rowe.
Pull-ups and weight training have been featured on the official Arsenal site and some have taken to it more and some less. Mo Elneny was pictured struggling with the chin-ups and clearly unimpressed with the trash-can ice-baths. But others like Rob Holding are starting to Hulk up a bit, or what we could call, the #BurgessEffect.
If the player’s bodies are showing the effect of Rugby training by Burgess, the #EmeryEffect is starting to show in several other key areas. The first is that Arsenal were able to deal with the Atletico press quite well. It’s been a feature of Late Wenger Arsenal that the players were unable to handle any pressure. This was a major reason for Arsenal’s decline in away form as teams simply didn’t afford Arsenal the respect that they once commanded and got in their faces, forcing errors, bad passes, and turnovers in dangerous areas.
Atletico pressed Arsenal’s young midfielders (Guendouzi especially) and they were able to handle the pressure remarkably well. Guendouzi in particular showed why Arsenal picked him up, he was usually at least one pass ahead of his markers, and when they did close down on him in possession, he fought well to keep the ball and regain possession when he lost it.
Another feature of the #EmeryEffect is that Arsenal seemed more interested in tackling than before. Wenger’s defensive systemm prefered interceptions (especially from the center backs) over tackles (from the midfield). There is a logic to this because when you go to ground to win the ball, you take yourself out of the play and unless you win the ball, it can be a net negative to tackle like this. Emery seems to have organized the midfield to defend in more of a pack-like attitude. When Ramsey tackled the ball away, Smith Rowe would be there to collect.
However, whether this was just something Unai wanted in this one match or whether this is a whole change to the system is certainly something we will have to watch as the season progresses.
Arsenal did have a few loose moments in defense, one in particular was very poor, but I challenge you to watch any football match these days and not see both teams giving up chances.
The Atletico goal came from almost nothing. Holding (please correct me) got too close to his man, got turned, Kolasinac wasn’t in the right spot, but despite these errors, the cross was still fizzed between players, and hit the head of Vietto who lucked it into the goal. Perhaps Leno could have done better, perhaps the Arsenal defense could have been tighter, but the goal felt more lucky than a product of skill or defect.
Predictably, the Arsenal supporters on Twitter – and the guy who was talking on my feed, I think he’s the Men in Blazers guy – were starting in with the “same old Arsenal” stuff. That’s not going to get old at all this season. Not at all.
The one defensive moment that was pretty funny was when Arsenal allowed the entire Atletico team to dribble, pass, and shoot in the 18 yard box. I think it was Guendouzi who got burnt, then Ramsey blocked the cross but instead of clearing, he tried to dribble the ball – INTO HIS OWN NET – before getting tackled, losing the ball, allowing a shot, Cech got in a top class save and eventually the ball went out. Hey, there are some good things to take away from even this 1) we don’t just hoof the ball out 2) we didn’t give away a penalty by sticking out a stupid leg for someone to dive over and 3) instead of trying to dribble into the opposition net, we are now trying to dribble into our own net. The #EmeryEffect?
In possession, Arsenal showed some tight passing, continued the tradition of long throughballs, and looked really confident throughout with the ball. Emile Smith Rowe was especially fun to watch as he Cazorlad his way around the pitch in possession. He created several chances for his teammates and eventually got the goal his play deserved when he latched on to a pass that was about to get away from him, darted in, cut between, and fired home an off-balance shot from outside the box. It was a bit of a lucky goal, to be fair, but it was luck borne on the back of perspiration. Which sounds kind of gross and I don’t mean that he’s like some kind of slippery, sweaty, lucky dude.
All around, an enjoyable morning pre-season match. I’d love to watch another two or three months of pre-season with the Arsenal, see how they build, how Emery changes the team. But sadly, we only have a few more weeks before we have to play games that count.
Additional questions: while everyone talks about wingers and needing wingers and how we don’t have enough wingers and that we need a winger because we don’t have enough wingers do you wonder if people are obsessed with wingers because they miss WENGER well I think it’s possible and I also wonder if Elneny is going to make the cut. I know he’s a fan favorite but Guendouzi has all of his running, twice the passing range (the Frenchman picked out an incredible 60 yard pass for Aubameyang) and is able to dribble and tackle.