Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Odegaard’s socks : Sharing the goals

Morning all.

After a two week break before our Crystal Palace game on Saturday, we now have another extended period without a game. We travel to Nottingham Forest next Tuesday, but because we’re not in the FA Cup, it’s a free weekend ahead as those ties take place. Perhaps it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

On the one hand, after a 5-0 win you’d like to go again soon, to build on that confidence boosting result and performance. On the other, we saw Declan Rice come off with what looks like a bit of a hamstring problem, while big Gabi took a kick to the knee, so it might just give them a bit more time to recover. Forest has not been a happy place for us recently, so it’d be much better to go there with those two involved.

Not least because Rice was the architect of the first goal that Gabriel scored. Architect sounds a bit much, to be fair. He just slung in a very good corner that the centre-half attacked well and headed home, but the importance of quality delivery can’t be understated. It was interesting to see him take the corner too. The best laid plans of any set-piece coach can be waylaid when the lad taking the corners looks like he’s playing in Wellington Boots, so it was nice to see Leandro Trossard strike the ball as well as he did for his goal in the second half. Whether that’s enough for him to get back on corner duty remains to be seen.

I thought the Match of the Day analysis of our set-pieces was quite interesting. They showed how Trossard was used to block off/irritate Joachim Andersen, and that worked to really good effect – allowing Gabriel (and others) to attack the ball when it was delivered. They also had a theory about Martin Odegaard signalling which corner was going to be taken. He stood in the same place every time, and fiddled with his socks before the kick was taken. There appeared to be a variation between back post and near post corners, one sock versus two etc. Maybe he just had a really itchy pair of socks on.

Is that secret signalling now out in the open? Maybe so, but in an era when football clubs employ teams of analysts to study the opposition, chances are this stuff – if it is what Match of the Day think it is – would have been noticed anyway. That means that we’ll just have to adapt and to find a different way of doing it, and that’s part of the challenge that set-piece coach Nicolas Jover faces. So far, it’s fair to say he’s doing a fantastic job. Arsenal have 13 non-penalty set-piece goals this season, Everton are next on 11, then there are some teams on 9.

It’s probably a little too simplistic to connect some of our pre-Palace form with the lack of quality from our corners and free kicks, but the reality is that when we deliver good balls into the opposition’s box, we score more often than any other team. It’s why in some of those games that didn’t go as well as we’d have liked, I was very frustrated by how bad some of the set-pieces were. Even if you don’t play well in general, you can come away with something when you have the ability we have in these situations, and we didn’t make the most of them.

Arteta spoke about Saturday’s effectiveness, and said:

Deliveries have been consistent and good as well, there are others like Wilo that have the capacity to score more goals. We don’t have a 30, 40 goals on someone, we have to share them and that’s a good quality in the team.

Without wanting to open up the whole ‘Arsenal need a 40 goal a season striker’ debate again – because a) it’s not like they grow on trees and b) chances of doing that kind of deal in January are basically nil – only Jakub Kiwior and Emile Smith Rowe of our ‘regular’ first team squad are yet to score a goal this season (in all competitions). We absolutely could use somebody catching fire in the second half of the season in goalscoring terms, maybe even more than one, but between now and May our best chance of success will come if, on top of that, five or six other players can chip in with some kind of frequency/regularity.

There’s no question in my mind that the forward line will be a key part of the summer recruitment plans, but this month, I’d be very surprised to see an addition. So, after a weekend when Gabriel Martinelli got back to goalscoring ways, Trossard scored again, and Jesus, Saka, Nketiah, Jorginho and Rice all chipped in with assists, we have to take the positives from that, and look for them to replicate those contributions to help us build the kind of momentum we’ll need.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. We are recording an Arsecast Extra for you this morning, so 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 midday. Until then.

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