Morning, welcome to a new week.
It turned out to be mostly a good weekend in terms of other results in the Premier League. Aston Villa beat Spurs, mate, which is always funny, but it also showed that we are going to have to be good when we go there in December, mate. There was a very Unai Emery chaos to some of their play yesterday, but they definitely have some attacking threat to be mindful of. Mate.
In the other game on Sunday, it’s a shame that Everton continue to field a goalkeeper with velociraptor arms, otherwise he might have saved that first goal. A decent hit from the lad, I suppose, but I resent giving him or Man Utd any credit. So I won’t.
There’s some interesting stuff in the Evening Standard from Bukayo Saka who talks about the difficulty he, and Gabriel Martinelli, are facing in terms of how teams defend against them. It’s been a feature of the season that in almost every game, as soon as they get on the ball, there are two defenders on them. Saka says:
I feel like a lot of games I’m facing a double team with two guys on me and it’s the same for Gabi. It’s happening in every game. I keep watching all my games back trying to find a solution, what I can do better.
In the end I just feel like I need to understand that this is how it’s going to be this season and I just need to deal with it and keep finding a way like I did today. That’s what I need to keep doing.
It is certainly a challenge, and when you try and picture Saka going beyond his full back and attacking from there, it’s not one we’ve seen that much of during this campaign. Even when Ben White plays, the overlaps aren’t as frequent – and again that comes down to how teams are playing against us. Facing a low block almost every weekend has an impact on that aspect of our game too.
The thing is though, it requires complete concentration and commitment from the defenders for 90 minutes, and while it makes life difficult for our wingers, it also provides opportunity. If there are two men on on Arsenal man, it means there’s another Arsenal man potentially free. We saw a couple of weeks ago that our opening goal against Burnley came when they doubled-up on Martinelli, allowing Oleksandr Zinchenko the space to cross – which allowed Saka to provide the assist for Leandro Trossard.
On Saturday, late in the game, Brentford’s structure was obvious, but they didn’t get quite tight enough. It might have been tiredness, just a tiny lapse, but when you have a high quality player like Saka, that’s all he needs.
No doubt the discussion about how to be more effective in attack will continue through the season. The reality is we are going to face a lot of low blocks, and a lot of teams who will make life difficult for our creative players. When Arteta talks about being efficient in tight spaces, this shows he understands the challenge we’re facing, and I do think any conversation about our attack this season needs to have this context.
At the same time, can we do more? Like I said, doubling-up means there should be space for someone else, so can we move the ball a bit quicker to make the most of that? I think that might well be something we can improve on, and that could help us change games. Scoring early, if possible, has to change the opposition’s approach at some point as they seek a way back into the game. It’s often easier said than done, I realise, but if this season isn’t as ‘fun’ as the last one, it’s not just down to the way we’re playing. It’s what the opposition are doing too. We’re not a surprise package anymore.
As for Saka, he has 15 goal contributions in 18 games this season. Which shows that even when teams pay close attention to him, he can still produce the goods. If he can find a way through these various watch-backs of his games to unlock even a couple of percentage points more from his own game, his numbers come the end of the season could be sensational. Fingers crossed.
Right, let’s leave it there for now. We will be recording an Arsecast Extra for you later on. Keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.
Podcast should be out around lunchtime. Until then.