Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Set-pieces, smallness and mechanical boardroom nonsense

As you know I’m not that interested in international football but last night’s 1-1 draw between Germany and Ireland will have sent shockwaves through something that shockwaves go through.

I was there the last time we played them, a 6-1 spanking at Lansdowne Road. How things have changed. Germany were five worse. FIVE. Maybe that’s the downside of winning the world cup and if so you have to ask what’s the point. As for Ozil, he was invisible again etc etc.

Now we have a burst of games before the next Interlull in November and then that’s it until well into the new year. If you look at the games we’ve got before the break next month you have to think it’s a good chance to get some momentum going. Hull at home, Anderlecht away, Sunderland away, Burnley at home, Anderlecht at home and then Swansea away. The first game after the next Interlull sees us take on Manchester United at home so it would be good to get some wins under our belt before that one.

In the wake of some interesting analysis from @7amkickoff on the goals we’ve conceded this season (although I wouldn’t call the Sp*rs one a set-piece, per se), Per Mertesacker has spoken again about our difficulties this season from corners, free kicks etc. He said:

We have to go through the set-pieces and say what went wrong because last year we had quite a good record. We need to improve on it this season because we’ve conceded from them already. It’s all about reminding ourselves how good we are in the air from set-pieces, but we have to get to the ball and stop opponents getting into dangerous areas. That’s what we need to improve.

So, there’s an acceptance that we need to do better but the solution is prevention rather than cure. Stop them getting those set-pieces in the first place. Sounds nice, but they’re part and parcel of the game and we should be working hard on that too. I wonder if there’s just an element of size to it. We’re not exactly the tallest team in the world and that can be the difference. As for when we’ve got a chance from a corner etc, he says:

The deliveries, the timing, there’s a lot of detailed things we have to improve. A lot of it has to do with concentration, strictness and good deliveries and good timing.

I think almost all of it has to do with the delivery. There’s nothing quite as random as an Arsenal corner. You don’t know if it’s going to be scuffed to the near post, battered way beyond the far post, floated into the middle which makes it easy for the keepers to claim and the defenders to clear, or some variation of all of those things at the same time. There’s a distinct lack of consistency to our corners and as long as that continues we can complain all we want about having to do better, but until we do the basics well things just won’t improve.

We can work on the timing of runs, the player positions (and is it just me or do we seem reluctant to get many men into the box this season thus leaving ourselves outnumbered and making it more difficult to score?), and all kinds of other things, but if the ball into the box looks like it’s been played by a special needs, club-footed hippo with ingrown toenails wearing a pair of wellies three sizes too big for him, then we’re not going to trouble the opposition that much. Something to ponder there, Arsenal coaching staff.

Meanwhile, there are reports (early ones it has to be said), suggesting that Laurent Koscielny’s chronic Achilles (could he sort out the pain with chronic? – The Pelecanos method I believe it’s called), might require more rest and as such we might have to play Nacho Monreal at centre-half. Calum Chambers is suspended, as we know, for picking up five bookings already this season so we’re going to have to play Hector Bellerin at right back in his absence.

Adding Monreal to centre-half would give the back four a distinctly odd look and if we’re worried about size and conceding goals from set-pieces (against a team who have, in the not too distant past, exploited our weaknesses there in a very scary way), then this isn’t going to calm anyone’s nerves. We’ll hear more on this from the manager later in the week, no doubt, but I do hope Koscielny’s problems aren’t as bad as feared.

Not a lot else going on right now. The AGM takes place tomorrow and with the start to the season unconvincing and the issue of Stan’s £3m payment I do wonder if it might be a feisty affair. Over the years they’ve become more sedate, and more stage-managed with questions pre-approved, but with Fanshare closing, and thus an avenue closed for some of the people likely to be in attendance tomorrow, this could be a last chance to make some noise, as they say.

It wouldn’t surprise me to find out the £3m was used to make a StanBot3000 – an android version of the major shareholder, complete with dodgy wig and tache, with the cold dead eyes of a shark, used at all public events from now on. The real Stan can remote control him from on top of a four-poster bed before he dives into a gold bullion pool like Scrooge McDuck.

I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

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