On the Champions League, Goalkeepers and Defensive Midfielders

You’ll Never Walk Alone…unless you’re a goalkeeper whose two mistakes cost the side the Champions League. Then, you’ll be left to suffer your humiliation in isolation until your opponents console you in their ‘trying to stifle the celebrations but thanks mate!’ kind of way.

All the while, your captain and other team-mates sit pathetically on the floor, wallowing in their own self-pity. Post-match, Steven Gerrard sat crestfallen as Lampard, Ferdinand and Lineker enjoyed the moment of Gareth Bale’s stunning overhead kick, as well as the revelling in their former international colleague’s discomfort.

Ferdinand’s new openness included the warning that the rest of the Liverpool squad will offer no solace. He admitted he had looked around a dressing room before and blamed someone for costing him a medal.

Football is a dog eat dog world.

Loris Karius’ performance will be a recurring nightmare for the player; there’s nowhere to hide when the world is looking and he didn’t try to. There was no hole deep enough for him to dive into.

I have nothing but deep sympathy for him. The individual, a 24-year-old man, has to resurrect his career from the ashes of that night in Kyiv. Liverpool fans already consigned him to the summer scrapheap while bemoaning a lack of ‘Plan B’ from the manager as well.

A word of warning: Liverpool John Lennon Airport is banning planes towing banners proclaiming “Klopp Out”. With the storms lashing England today, there’s a danger of crosswinds causing all manner of problems as the planes land.

The upshot is Liverpool are in the market for two new goalkeepers this summer. We just want one and Unai Emery, the gossip tells us, is doing a ‘Pep’ and returning to a former club for his goalkeeping solution. Sevilla’s Sergio Rico, the reports claim, is the man in his plan.

Good Grief!

An interview here offers an interesting insight into some of Emery’s thinking about football and his philosophy.

Can you talk about your style of play?

Being competitive means adapting yourself to the reality of your opponent. Sometimes, you win because you use the ball better, and sometimes you have to adapt and give in to the idea that you don’t have it. That’s why I’m so admiring of Guardiola and Simeone. Because they are competitive with opposing styles…Let me say this: PSG played well and won. Many people don’t value that enough and believe that it is easy. But what happened to us? We lacked competitiveness in important moments. Why? Because this team is not confronted with enough moments of adversity in the league. Being competitive also means being faced with adversity. One has to suffer like Simeone’s team to win. One has to suffer like Pep’s team to win in England.

My team had two basic principles: having possession and pressing. That was the basis. Having the ball, and winning it back as fast as possible. I should add a little nuance. I’m talking about having possession and not positioning because there are moments where you can win the ball through positioning, and others where moving out of position can surprise the opponent. And like Guardiola says, if you have to win with a long ball from the goalkeeper towards the striker and that the forward scores with his ass, then so be it! We work like that as well.

Emery must add more than “nuance” to Arsenal. His biggest job is how we work without the ball when our opponents are in possession. Defending from the front underpins the pressing game he likes to employ. That he mentions it directly underlines the change we’re going to witness.

Power House!

Both our goalkeepers should also be concerned. Their distribution isn’t good enough to fuel Emery’s philosophy; no wonder he’s looking at Rico.

The other area of importance is defensive midfield role.

Let’s talk about the defensive midfielder, an essential element to a team. Why has this position been a weak spot for PSG this season? You have tried playing with Motta, Lo Celso, Rabiot, Verratti, Lassana Diarra…

It depends… I remember when I would analyse Real Madrid, I thought that Xabi Alonso suffered from not having to run track back and that he was the weak link. When I would analysed Barcelona and saw Busquets, I thought that Sergio suffered from the space left behind him. I thought the same with Thiago Motta. All the great defensive midfielders suffer from a lack of space behind them, and when they are required to track back. But when a team has the ball 70% of the time, that is more important than knowing if you’ll struggle when tracking back. You are the one dominating the matches. That’s why your defensive midfielder’s output during moments where you don’t have the ball is less important.

With Arsenal, we’ll have 70% of the ball bar for a dozen matches each season in the Premier League. But this year, it’s been away from home where the problems arose and marrying his philosophy to the raw materials of the squad is his biggest issue.

Maybe they will surprise us and prove more adaptable to their new roles, changing their ways where defending applies. There are some interesting times ahead.

Right, I’m off to work out how we fit Gareth Bale into the Arsenal side, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo since both are so eager to leave Real Madrid.

’til Tomorrow.

32 thoughts on “On the Champions League, Goalkeepers and Defensive Midfielders

  1. Years of posting and I was the first commenter maybe once, twice? The Emery era has already been good to me!

    So what do we surmise Emery means there, YW? That dominating possession will resolve or make redundant the value of a DM? My hopes to be dashed so soon?!?!

  2. Bale and Ronaldo are world class players, prima donnas, and as Emery said about Neymar, they will control the managers/coaches and hence ,we would not encourage them to come to our club.
    Klopp, it was said during his last days in Dortmind longed to manage Arsenal, and rumour -not sure whether it was true that Guardiola was interested in Arsenal also, because his wife wanted London, and he hated Chelsea set up. Wenger held onto his job with a direct line to Stan Kroenke thus preventing many good managers who wanted to manage Arsenal. Wenger’s noises after retirement indicate that he would have continued next season and 2 seasons more if possible , giving excuses to dragging the club down to 6th, thus negating all his legacy.

    We would not blame Liverpool goal keeper for his error in that long shot from Bale. Cech allowed similar long shot from Rooney in Everton. These shots come like a bullet and difficult to prevent. Bale’s wonder goal to me was the reason for Real’s win. That said , we need a new goal keeper, and hope Emery has some one better in mind.

  3. Wenger colluded with Stand Kroenke, for his own survival, and bought on the cheap players , and more annoying was when players like Van Dijk expressed their desire to move from Scotland with a reasonable fee, he ignored. His apparent non-desire for PL trophy and CL trophy meant then no good player was interested to come. Hence, we missed Konte, and the messages then was he was expensive, but bought Xhaka paying more!
    It appears to us, that of the 3 American owners-Man U and Liverpool, only , Stan Kroenke seemed to be interested in no PL or CL win, and that helped Wenger to continue
    Hope Emery will write a new and encouraging chapter. He needs support in the form of cash to buy players he wants.

  4. LSG,

    In the interview, he hints DMs are pointless for sides like Real, Barca and PSG because they dominate every game. For us, I don’t think that’s the case and nor will he when he sees our defending!

  5. YW,

    Agree, he built his Sevilla side around 2 holding players, think he speaks to that in the same interview, and then deployed Banega behind the strikers.

  6. you have to feel sorry for some of the liverpool players.
    salah didnt deserve to go out the way he did after the season he had and the GK? well, football can be cruel sometimes, he’ll need all his friends and family around him after that shit show.
    it wouldnt suprise me if he was left on the scrap heap now.

    everything went wrong for liverpool last night, it reminded me of our not so fairy tale ending in 06 when jens got sent off, we had to sacrifice pires and almunia let two goals in at his near post whilest henry couldt hit a cows arse with a banjo.

    as for emery and us – a gk and a new dm isnt all we need, but it will be a good start.

  7. I won’t lie when reals goals went in I was quite happy. I always feel Liverpool fans and players feel they deserve success without putting in 100% effort.

    Like this season. They are technically 1 point off they’re tally from last season. And finished one place down. They’ve lost two finals in two seasons and Klopp hadn’t had 3 years of building and they haven’t won anything. At least Wenger won 2 FA cups in that time. Same as spurs. The power shift has occurred… Because they’ve finished above us and have champs league

  8. Which was what they always lambasted us for. “you don’t win cups by playing nice football and scoring lots of goals when it doesn’t count for anything”

    They have the same issue as Arsenal 2006 in all honeslty. Good players that apparently lack the ability to get over the finish line.

    Oh and a dodgy keeper

  9. MesutsLeftFoot,

    Thats actually an argument I have has recently with some Liverpool supporters I know. They all say that they have surpassed us and that they are set to challenge for the PL and CL next season but have no silverware yo show for it. I get it, they have looked better than us but how much of that was down to us having the players but not the manager and them having the combination recently yet still nothing to show.

    Sure they play better, but I thought sports was all about lifting silverware?

  10. Like many of you, I’m guessing, when I doscovered that we now have ‘Visit Rwanda’ as a sponsor made I did a double-take. ‘Visit Rwanda’ all over the Arsenal? So I went to the .com site and watched a breathlessly enthusiastic interview with our commercial director – https://player.arsenal.com/video/arsenal-partner-visit-rwanda – and was left wondering about exactly how much loot the Rwandan taxpayer is now handing Ivan for the privilege of cluttering up my club’s shirtsleeves.

    But on balance I thought “Well, perhaps it’s a good thing that smaller African countries are now muscling in on the global tourism market and why shouldn’t they do so by competing for our eyeballs with the oil-rich emirates and the global mega-brands? My memories of Rwanda are that it underwent a traumatic ethnic cleansing orgy in 1994 but has more or less sorted itself out as a functioning democracy in the years since – not an easy trick to pull off in Africa.

    Today, however, I stumbled on this letter in the most serious South African weekly: https://mg.co.za/article/2018-05-25-00-letters-to-the-editor-may-25-to-31 It’s by a Belgian academic and it effectively states that, contrary to the decades-long spin generated by Clinton and Blair since the massacres of 1994, Rwanda’s post-94 President, Paul Kagame, is guilty of a massive ‘counter-massacre’ in 1994 and ongoing brutal oppression of the Hutu ‘under-class’ (the tribe that did the original massacring of Kagame’s tribe, the Tutsis) since then.

    I’m hoping that one of Yogi’s readers may be able to enlighten us with supporting or contrary evidence, but I’m sharing this with you all because, on the face of it, it seems the club may have lucratively stitched itself to a government that has some pretty gruesome skeletons in its closet.

    I would like to think the club, whose values Ivan (an African himself by birth) has been trumpeting repeatedly of late, would do extra due diligence before taking sponsorship from a foreign government, for fear of reputational damage in the event of a political upheaval, cupboard door falling off, etc. Since the stadium was built I’ve had qualms about the Dubai government, but at least they and their national carrier have never gone in for ethnic cleansing.

    I would value any views from this esteemed blogoverse before I raise it with the club. In particular two questions for you:

    1) Do you have reliable knowledge either way that what the letter purports is likely to be true or false?

    2) Do you think this is beyond the pay grade of us fans?

    Answers on the back of a used season ticket from the Late Wenger era, please.

  11. C,

    Same arguement I have with my ex flatmate. Liverpool are this and that. Best football in Europe? Not evem top 3 imo.

    I point out we boosted a similar attitude pre edurado/RVP injury that essentially cost us title in 2006. And we played better football. Thing is, our goals came from all over pitch, not just a forward three our issue was we didn’t have the players to push us over the line when we needed it most. We had a sulk in Gallas as a captain and young experienced players who didn’t have the ingredients to win when I mattered (4 home draws at end of season).

    Same as Liverpool except without the youth aspect. 3 seasons and no trophies only “we’ve got gengenpressen”. You can even say they play best football on league which that 2006 Arsenal team did, City play better football albeit scored slightly less. When I see that Liverpool team I see a good team but one that has holes that aren’t really addressed (like Arsenal aka dodgy keeper and defensively found lacking at times of need) and no one who’ll drag them over the finish line like Terry, lampard, Vidics and Ferdinands did for Man u and Chelsea.

  12. MesutsLeftFoot,

    I actually get a chuckle when people say they play the best futbol in Europe as generally those are people that have never seen Napoli, Monaco or even Inter let alonr Citeh. Do they play entertaining, futbol, yes but best in Europe, not really.

    Your spot on though, they haven’t won anything and they do resemble Arsenal through those lean years except Klopp has spent money and while they have the potential to obviously get better, especially with Keita coming, they still lack something.

  13. Looks like Soyunco has spoken and said he wants it resolved in 10-15 days:

    Arsenal [one] of the most important clubs in England, I know they care about me, but there’s nothing finalised yet about my transfer.

    “After the national team camp takes place, in a relaxed way, talks my head. Currently I have an idea to return to Turkey.

    “I want to represent my country in Europe as long as my body permits.”

  14. Great post Yogi

    I was hoping Liverpool would win but certainly not surprised by the result. Completely unforced GK errors like yesterday are like a dagger in the heart of a team. However, Madrid was probably going to find a way to win even without those errors.

  15. I like most of what Emery has to say. He seems like he will be a more pragmatic manager and if we have to win with a long ball or a scruffy goal then so be it. I also loved the first sentence of the quote where he says we have to adapt to the reality of the opponent. We can’t go toe to toe and try to play football with teams like Man City and come out on top at least not yet.

  16. MLF

    Who plays the best football is completely subjective and it depends on your own biases and there is no right answer. I focuses a lot on Liverpool’s style this year because in many ways it was the polar opposite of Wengerball and my bias against languid slow tempo build ups and endless short passing and tippy tappy color my opinion. Liverpool are certainly a much better team then we are right now but hopefully with some wise investment and a more pragmatic manager we can pass them in the next couple of seasons

  17. True words JonJon.

    The Liverpool capitulation was reminiscent of our own problem in 2006. How far can you go when you are overachieving based on the talent of a few players ?

    It is the reason why, a system that has several players able to execute the same position with ease, will always beat the system that relies on a particular talent, when shit hits the fan.

    Though the keeper effectively helped Madrid to their 1st and 3rd goals, it is worthy of note that Lallana could not replicate Salah’s input.

  18. YW,

    I like your and C’s interpretation. I certainly don’t want a redux of the mentality that disdains defensive midfield play.

  19. I’m beginning to fear that without a transfusion of considerable funds we will not provide a reasonably militant opposition to the Manchesters and Chelsea of the EPL.
    The Kroenkes have set a precedent by becoming single de facto owners in buying out shareholders and then sitting back and watching the steady increase in the value of their investment.
    They will not put money into the Club in order to further progress, when its present financial value is sufficient to their needs. They will sell their shares when the time is ripe and realise a handsome profit……….the object of the exercise.
    In my view, until the day when Arsenal FC can be owned by (say) a consortium and responsible to an all-powerful independent Board, willing to genuinely invest in new players, a real challenge to the top echelon of the EPL cannot take place. 😉

  20. Limestonegunner,

    So would I. With the attacking options we have especially with Ozil, Mhkitaryan, Lacazette and Aubameyang…we don’t necessarily need goals from our pivots, we need them to boss the midfield and help out defensively.

  21. nicky,

    You are just now realizing the malign influence of the Kroenkes on the potential of the club? So maybe there have been further benefits to Arsène Wenger’s departure than many anticipated! Consider the stories about Kroenke authorizing 20m extra at Emery’s request for this summer on top of the rumoured 50m originally available. What are they trying to say? I would really love to read YW’s dissection of this one. But my main conclusion is that the Kroenke’s are worried about exactly this: No AW to hide behind, so their miserly ambitions and support for AFC will be more exposed.

    As far as enriching themselves with riding share prices, what do you think the previous board member did? Made a killing on selling their shares to someone who cared nothing about the club or the sport and pursued a policy of maximizing share prices over sporting success. I think Mike SA first floated this very important insight about 6 or so years ago. We need a board with shareholders who care about Arsenal and footballing success genuinely. But let’s not hold our breath!

  22. Not be able to compete with City financially I get, but Chelsea? Someone is about a decade out of date. We have been competing with Chelsea financially on spend and near enough on wages too. The issue is that we’ve bought badly and even worse, we failed to use the players we did have effectively and it’s been the case that the whole has been far less than the sum of the parts. I’m optimistic that Emery will make significant progress in rectifying a lot of that very quickly.

  23. andy1886,

    Indeed. Chelsea lives in approximately the same financial universe as AFC now. Yet they win the league every so often. They drop to 10th or 5th every so often too. I’d take that over narrow consistency that never reaches the heights but maintains CL or nearly so for the bankers and owners.

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