PSG Put To The Sword But There’s Still Much Work To Do Defensively

Arsenal 5 – 1 Paris St-Germain

Thomas Tuchel took defeat particularly badly, it seems. The surprising choice for Paris St-Germain head coach – he has won fewer trophies than the now-departed Unai Emery – observed Arsenal’s future lay in the Europa League. Not to put too fine a point on it, but so does PSG’s if their performance was any kind of yardstick.

Which, of course, it isn’t.

Results like this are where people get carried away. We think we’re better than we are, we think PSG are worse than they are; neither is true. PSG will improve immeasurably on the performance once their first-team regulars return although they are still as far away as ever from winning the Champions League.

They are an object lesson in how to spend money badly. All the money in the world and their first-team bottle key moments in time. And they fell for Neymar’s marketing spiel or else were so blinded by his performance in the Camp Nou when PSG capitulated, that they forgot to do their homework on him.

Tuchel, we’re told, is mates with all the nightclub owners. Yeah, because being pals with the PSG manager is better for business than having the players in your club. Everything about the club lacks substance.

Jesus, if I’m getting this upset by the comments in a pre-season friendly, this season is going to be a bundle of laughs when Mourinho and Sarri get going, isn’t it?

Anyway, what of our performance? I enjoyed it – for the most part – and it’s churlish to pick holes in every little fault if I’m not going to accentuate the positives.

There were quite a few of them as well. No sooner had I almost begged Iwobi and Özil to deliver goals than the former drew a good save from Buffon and the latter scored.

We’re Gunner Win The League…

It was a generally good performance going forward. Positives in Aubameyang’s intelligent running, as well as our willingness to exploit his attribute. The commentary I listened to repeatedly called it ‘going direct’, which conjured up all sorts of ‘route one’ imagery. If that was the intention, ‘route one’ has changed a lot since I first watched it forty years ago.

Arsène would call it ‘efficient’, playing to your strengths. At the moment, we’re caught between the old and the new, which is no surprise. Expecting the players to immediately adapt to the new requirements is madness but when the action begins in earnest – where’s earnest? – they will be ready. Another two friendlies and a fortnight’s training.

Good finishing from Lacazette and Nketiah punished lax defending. Opportunistic poaching; everything you want from strikers. That Emery chose not to start both Lacazette and Aubameyang is a signal of how things will work in key away matches.

So, the attack is all good or where you’d to be at this point. Midfield is tougher to assess. Guendouzi caused the US commentators to come up with all manner of pronunciation save for Gwentheboatcomesin. He showed once again an eagerness for the ball and quick distribution. The exuberance of youth saw him caught out, surrendering possession cheaply on occasion, but experience eases that problem.

There’s no doubt that he’s exceeded expectations in the tour matches and it will be interesting to see how Emery uses him from now on when Xhaka will be available. The young Frenchman won’t usurp Ramsey or the Swiss from the starting line-up just yet but he offers something different from the bench.

Smith-Rowe, Maitland-Niles, and Nelson acquitted themselves well during all their appearances, be it from the start or off the bench. It’s promising for the new season.

And Now You’re Gunner Believe Us…

The League Cup and Europa League group stage will provide us with more evidence of their progress. I’d also expect them to get some Premier League action this season from the bench. Is it better for their experience than bossing an academy game? I think so, and with the Checkatrade Trophy matches, that trio plus Nketiah has the opportunity to learn their trade.

Defence is not so clear-cut. We displayed an alarming vulnerability to the ball played over the top, leading eventually to a dubious penalty. It’s by no means certain VAR would give the spot kick.

It’s by no means certain who our first-choice central defensive pairing is either. Sokratis will be one of them, a defender ‘raised’ in the pressing game Emery favours. Still vulnerable to pace, that’s for sure. He – like Bellerin – spoke about the work Emery has them doing.

“But with the new coach we work also on the situations when we don’t have the ball and this is very important.

“On the first day, the coach worked on this. With him, all the players work on tactics, we look a lot at videos, what was wrong, what we have to do better.

“I think and hope this year things at the back will be much better.”

By the time we face Manchester City, the first-choice pairing ought to be clear. Sokratis and Mavropanos/Mustafi seems likelies but if we go with a back three, those are three players may get the nod ahead of Holding and Chambers. We’ll get more idea in the next two games.

Leno’s distribution is far better than Cech’s, solving that problem. Martinez did well in his 45 minutes, sealing the third goalkeeping spot. Ospina, I’d venture, is the odd man out, not least because we can command a fee for him.

We’re Gunner…

Do what exactly next season? I’m not sure yet. Going forward, we look good; sharp. Defensively, still vulnerable as we work out the pairings and basically, what we’re doing.

Emery was clear what he wants when talked about moving with a 4-4-2 press, but we’re not there yet. Two more games and a fortnight’s training doesn’t seem much time to get it right but it is what it is.

For the moment, the boxes were largely ticked by these two matches and credit is due for the results in the 90 minutes is due for both.

’til Tomorrow

13 thoughts on “PSG Put To The Sword But There’s Still Much Work To Do Defensively

  1. It will be interesting to see Pep’s line up for the Arsenal game.
    Will he go with the mix of youth and senior players available to him now, or will he rely on the pure muscle memory of his usual starters short on match fitness.

    Either way I think Arsenal have a huge advantage there.

  2. Tuchel to PSG seemed an odd one to me at the time.
    I can’t see him lasting more than a season there.

  3. Possibly the first time I’ve seen full-bore pressing? Was after the last of the subs came on– at 74′ (AMN and Willock). Felt it was well-executed by the youngsters– and we did score twice in the last 15-18 minutes. Credit due.

    (Please Lord?) Let it be Mavropanos with Sokratis.
    As well as Mustafi has shown in Singapore– he’s still good for one boneheaded mistake every match. Granted, did not cost us a goal. Though against PL competition? Always seems to.

    Just before he came off? Could have cleared a ball in any direction– except forward. So? Kicks straight into the PSG man’s shins 2 yards in front of him. Ball caroms back to the middle, toward goal. By chance– to one of our players. I cannot count how many times last year those ended up in our goal. Can’t anyone explain to him– ‘into the stands’– are the best place to kick-the-sh^t-out-of-the ball?

    jw1

  4. Spot on Yogi.

    I think Leno’s distribution and command is something worth noting. He is our #1 and I think its great to see how comfortable the defenders were with being able to pass it back to the GK knowing that he is comfortable and will look to keep possession and make the right decision.

    Guendouzi continues to impress with his confidence and simply wanting to but do so smartly. Our pressing game is showing signs of improvement because they wanted to hunt and you see the progress.

    Our attack, its clear Aubameyang and Lacazette look sharp and look like the type of strikers/wingers ability that we have sorely lacked but certainly will look to shine. Nothing against Giroud but he isn’t the type of striker that best suits our attacking players such as Ozil, Ramsey and Mhkitaryan.

  5. Second time in the last 5 or 6 months I’ve recognized the pic in the post.

    Previously I was averaging out around 1 every 2 years or so.

    Talk about becoming a movie buff eh?!

    I guess we’re getting down to the short strokes on the squad needing to pay like Emery wants them to and the finalization of ins and outs of personnel.

    I suspect/hope we’re going to see continuous and gentle rotation of the squad, hopefully not the Wenger throwing players under the bus with 9 wholesale changes of guys who haven’t had a game in 6 months and wondering why they all play like shit.

    I saw reports that Gomez had trashed his hammy, so that might well have put that one to bed.

    No idea what to think about Dembele to be honest. If no winger comes in, does that mean Perez stays?

    Campbell seems to be a lost cause but I’m a little confused about him returning to the club, I thought his contract had just expired?

    Have to say I find the Chelsea story more than a little suspect, but I’d snatch their arm off if it turned out to be true.

  6. Play like Emery wants them to.

    Although Emery might have some sort of fine system in place for underperformers too…………..

  7. Michael,

    I’ve often wondered what the hell a dope-smoking hippie is doing in a WWII movie, let alone driving around in a tank. Maybe I should just sit back and laugh, but I can’t.

  8. You need to. Think of it as a heist movie and not a war movie.

    Just like I need to be writing this morning’s post rather than passing off inanities as pearls of wisdom.

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