Arsenal high five PSG and Bellerin praises Unai

Good day to you all. I got up late this morning and missed the first 80 minutes of the match. Kickoff was 0445am here which is normally not too early but I slept in. If I was being fair to myself I’d say that I’m not quite in full season fitness.

Arsenal, on the other hand, are apparently reaching their first fitness peak as they utterly destroyed Emery’s former team. I have to admit that when I woke up I was expecting the worst but when I saw the score was already 4-1 I had to let out a little “what the hell??” under my breath.

Ozil and Auba kicked off the glut with a superb goal. I guess from the commentary that Arsenal weren’t really playing well. PSG were pressing high and winning the ball back in dangerous areas, Arsenal (contrary to the style Emery has said we will play) didn’t press hardly at all because, as Unai pointed out, there were a lot of players in the starting lineup who haven’t learned the press yet.

I don’t need to tell you that pressing is a team endeavor. Which is what made Alexis’ one-man show so literally performative. He would run up and basically pretend to press (to show what a hard worker he is) and remonstrate with his teammates to join him. But if you don’t press as a unit because you don’t know how all that does is create a ridiculously open defense. Emery specified that Özil hasn’t had the time to get the practice needed to press effectively, but I’m sure he will get it. It’s one of the main things I’m looking forward to this season: how many tackles* will Özil win?

Tackles aside, Ozil’s first job is to score and provide goals and he did that excellently. The pass from Mkhitaryan was perfect and sent Auba into space. Auba then just needed to cross the ball in the right area and he did, where Ozil pounced.

Arsenal livened right up after that goal. Guendouzi, who is my favorite new player, put the ball on a dime for Auba from what looked like 600 yards away. His ability to predict where to put the ball for players like Aubameyang  when they are making a small diagonal run is pretty special. He’s already a better long ball passer than Xhaka, in my humble estimation. From now on these passes will be called “Douzis”. As in “whew, that pass was a Douzi”.

One of the other things I’m looking for this season is how many stupid errors Arsenal players make. I don’t want to be “that guy” and overreact but here goes anyway: Arsenal may have a left-back crisis. Kolasinac made a stupid tackle to award PSG a penalty. I know that he made the Bundesliga team of the year once but that was because of his ability to cross the ball. What’s needed from a left back is more than just crossing, it’s also a bit of speed, the ability to pass, and (crucially) defensive intelligence.

A simple through ball put Kolasinac in trouble. Weah isn’t even a speed merchant and didn’t even really leave Kolasinac in his dust. Kolasinac just needed to stay with him and trust that his teammates were going to cover the middle (which they were, there were three back in the middle). But instead, he got a rush of blood to the head and attempted the world’s dumbest slide tackle.

I don’t know why we call it a “rush of blood to the head” when it’s more like “made an oxygen starved decision”. I think it’s the lack of oxygen rich blood to blame for that decision. Either that or he’s just an idiot.

The question on twitter this year has been “who will play wide for Arsenal this year” and I think my answer is going to start being “everyone”. It was young sensation Emile Smith Rowe who popped up in the space, received a nice little pass, and crossed for Arsenal’s 2nd. Lacazette was the beneficiary this time and scored with a delicious little “I can’t believe it’s not butter starring Fabio” side foot.

Another Douzi of a pass, this time to Ramsey, started the third goal. This time courtesy a little head tennis. I think Lacazette is credited but you know what? I loved seeing Neketia put his face in there at the last minute. I love his predatory nature and I have real high hopes for him.

The fourth goal was just ridiculous. I don’t have the stats on how many headers have scored from 17 yards but my guess is not many. They are so rare that the last one I remember was Suarez, who actually scored from a header outside the box. But Holding showed how to do it: you have to sort of loop it into the top corner, that’s all. Easy peasy. It’s so difficult to actually do that that I would say that’s my favorite goal of the season.

The fifth was a textbook goal for Neketia. He sees the defender is occupied, he points where he wants the ball, he receives, and fires across the keeper. Those are the goals coaches dream of because it shows great all around technique by a player who is paying attention to his training. As I said, high hopes for this kid.

Unai was gracious in victory didn’t have a go at Tuchel, who was the guy who replaced him at PSG and who many Gooners demanded Arsenal sign to replace Big Weng. I have to say, by staying on a few weeks more, Wenger ensured that Arsenal got Unai instead of Tuchel. Big Weng you have done it again!

Unai named five captains: Ozil,

After the match Bellerin gave an interview in which he said that the players are working harder than they used to and that a great many things have changed.

“So many things have changed at the training ground. Starting from the coaching, from the schedule, to everything. Every coach has their own way of doing things and for us it’s changed a lot. We are working harder than we used to work, we’re doing a lot of work in the gym. That obviously we always used to do but I think it’s turned up a notch. (Emery) is a coach who wants us to press, to run around a lot during the games so obviously we want to be ready for that in the League.”

I guess this is a swipe at Wenger but it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has been reading my writings for the last three years. This was such an open secret that I felt comfortable reporting it time and again. It also became a lot less of a secret toward the end when the players held their mutiny and finally told the Guardian that they were frustrated at Wenger’s lack of training.

I wrote a comment on a post somewhere that Wenger was actually accused of not doing anything. That the players were openly wondering “what does Wenger do all day?” At the time, may people accused me of hating Wenger, which isn’t true at all.

The one thing that always got tossed back at me was “how did the invincibles happen?” Which I’ve replied time and again, based off all of the books I’ve read and what the players themselves have said, that they took the responsibility on themselves. Guys like Vieira, Henry, and Bergkamp stayed after sessions and worked on things. Adams and Campbell took leadership roles both on the pitch and at Colney.

One last thing. Players get burned out on intense training and demands. If they are winning trophies it’s one thing but if they aren’t, they can start to buck the system pretty quick. Then you either have to replace the manager or the players or both.

That’s what happens with Mourinho. That’s what’s going to happen at Tottenham soon. And don’t be surprised if Klopp is one of the next victims. If Klopp doesn’t win anything this year, I have to think that the players will start to wonder what all the hard work is for?

Anyway, that’s all for today. Maybe I’ll write something tomorrow but I’m working on my sesion preview series for the Arsenal Review (our new partners).


*I’ve written about this issue with Ozil in the past. And despite the recent defenses of him against what was perceived by many (himself included) to be a thinly veiled racist attack by Bayern President Uli Hoeness (who singled out Ozil’s lack of defensive work – specifically tackles), I do think Ozil needs to chip in more with team defense (that’s more than just tackles, it is interceptions, blocked passes, and even just tracking all the way back). Last season he literally did half the defensive work of his counterparts on Liverpool, Man City, and Tottenham and if Arsenal are going to crack into the top four it’s going to be because the team is working harder for each other. That includes Ozil.

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