Learning Like Kids – Tests Come Thick and Fast

The regular interruptions of the international breaks don’t make them any easier to tolerate. We don’t get any more used to them nor do we love them any better. Or at least I don’t.

Nor will the invented competitiveness of the UEFA Nations League, with its contrived promotion and relegation issues, improve that situation. Less than two months since the World Cup final and just four games into the season, we find ourselves on a break. Seeing less of the football which matters.

Having promotion and relegation issues will prove manna from heaven for the media and make the England manager’s job enough tougher. The headlines will scream about England being relegated, demanding the incumbent is sacked. And when promotion is achieved, the back pages will belittle any achievement with ridicule. The front pages won’t; success in the eyes of the football-hating editors is purely down to England thriving after Brexit on every level.

Yet we’re still playing Switzerland in a meaningless friendly? Surely there’s more imagination at the FA than European opponents? Why not face non-European opponents? We see enough of European teams in qualifying tournaments and now this shape-shifting league set-up. Let’s have a bit of variety and see how the rest of the world deals with our aimless long balls.

Maybe I’m too quick to judge the Nations League but the rush for judgement is typical of today’s football. The instant reaction is ready at hand to the extent where Arsenal are, for example, not a work-in-progress heading in the right direction, but a crisis waiting to happen. We haven’t thrown away silly points yet – we will, don’t worry – but ‘the Premier League isn’t scared of us’ narrative is just a short tube ride to crisis. And crisis is normally the end of the line.

Playground Antics

Not for Unai Emery. He’s got a board which won’t react with the indecent haste of Manchester United when they sacked David Moyes. United went with Ferguson-lite and learned a painful lesson that continuity in a similar vein is not a solution. Arsenal didn’t go for Wenger-lite with the re-education of players into a different philosophy, being a long process.

Possible longer than you think if Alexandre Lacazette’s assertion that the players are “learning like children”, which conjured all sorts of playground shenanigans in my mind.  That dreaded moment when the parents pick the players up from training: “Mrs Özil, could I have a quick word, please?”

“Is there a problem at home? Mesut doesn’t seem himself?”
“Well, the boys from the big school called him names but we dealt with that.”
“Is it solved? We don’t tolerate that at this school, do we, Marty? Sorry, Mesut”
“He thinks you don’t like him because you keep bringing him indoors before playtime ends”
“Of course we like him. He’s just not doing as he’s told. We’ve got some new rules and everyone has to obey them…”

Lacazette’s observation is spot on in the sense that like children, the players are being taught by rote. The difference is where we educate children to pass exams and have nine months to do so, Arsenal face a test every week. We get the results as we go along but it doesn’t make things any easier to learn.

The concern is the type of mistakes we make, not that we make them in the first place. We’re making schoolboy errors in a man’s game and that is a concern. Everyone errs but when the same mistakes are repeated, you question whether they will ever learn.

Puzzling Times for Unai

Cech’s jitters, for example, I would expect him to be more confident playing out from the back but he isn’t. The question is whether he ever will be? I don’t think so, primarily because he is so one-footed. That opens a door for Leno. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle for Emery. He’s got a fortnight during which time he can work hard in training with the players not called up by national squads.

It’s a hotch-potch of players with the spine of the side missing [insert your own joke here] but needs must. The reality is that we won’t see a tangible improvement next time out with just one or two training sessions for most players.

However, the basic errors, like ceding possession too cheaply, don’t need to be worked on at Arsenal. These are lapses in concentration which the players must address in themselves. And that is down to learning like adults. We’ll see who the grown-ups really are.

’til Tomorrow.

20 thoughts on “Learning Like Kids – Tests Come Thick and Fast

  1. Thanks for the post yogi.

    I have always tried my best to forget about the international breaks and this year is no different. These breaks are probably even tougher on you. I imagine its hard enough to write a post every day and the I suspect the difficulty with finding something new and different to say becomes exponentially more difficult during the international breaks. I would take a few days off during the next 2 weeks.

  2. Good Morning all.

    Agree international football is of questionable quality and is a frustrating interruption to the proper stuff. However, I am for anything which offers hope of the interminable friendlies being marginally more meaningful. One or two of them might even become watchable come crunch time. Fewer games outside of tournaments would also be fine.

  3. P.s. Love playgound Mesut.

    Grown-up Mesut needs to recapture a little bit of that child-like joy in his game and take someone on once in a while. If I had half his skill, I’d give it the odd go.

  4. Bill:
    Thanks for the post yogi.

    I have always tried my best to forget about the international breaks and this year is no different. These breaks are probably even tougher on you. I imagine its hard enough to write a post every day and the I suspect the difficulty with finding something new and different to say becomes exponentially more difficult during the international breaks. I would take a few days off during the next 2 weeks.

    Exponentially is a wonderful word Bill.
    Word of the day today,without a shadow of a doubt sir.

  5. Thanks for the post hello all. My opinion of bellerin changed a little bit over the last match. Dude is getting no help at all from his winger. I was keeping track of things and Ozil was invisible the first half, our whole squad is back defending except laca/auba/ozil. I occasionally saw Auba drifting deep to help out. You wonder how you spend your entire life as a professional footballer (keeper but still), Cech is what 40 years old or something? Guy has been playing footie for probably 30 years but has no weak foot??

    Final thoughts on Ozil he looked invisible for the first half? He showed up a bit in the 2nd half but only because Cardiff dropped off the pressure. The 1 good pass Ozil picked (to set up one of our goals) he was in acres of space, got the ball looked around, tweeted a couple instagram pictures of himself, then decided to dribble a bit and make a pass. He will NEVER get that time & space against a good team.

    I think our most ‘solid’ configuration might have a Welbeck out on the wings, Auba on the other and Laca centrally. Lacazette looked razor sharp that guy needs to be our central striker or maybe even #10. Have him sit behind PEA? Be the bergkamp to his henry?? Hope our guys really find the shooting boots soon. Laca could have had 2 or 3 to his name! Early on he was close to goal but tried to square instead of shooting. Had a good look right at edge of box but hit his shot with a bit of a drawn rather then outside of the boot with a bit of slice.

  6. Something that always comes to mind watching Arsenal games. Do we need more physical presence in there? If you look at our starting outfield players, each one of them is pretty much the same height and build. Even our center backs are rather diminuitive and have always been that way over the past decade except for Per. Do we need someone who is actually a physical presence? Someone in the back 4, and maybe in midfield. Xhaka _looks_ a little bigger but he is not the answer.

    Just a random thought curious what you all think. I feel like you could swap positions with our starting outfielders, and from a ‘box view’ you wouldnt be able to tell the difference they are all the same height and weight. Compare to other teams. It is especially noticeable for me on corner kicks free kicks. The opposition CBs come lumbering forward and they are noticeable larger. True mustafi got in for a good goal on corner kick , not saying you _cant_ do it as a small fry but it might help to get some friggen lumps in there? Viera/Petit had some size and presence.

  7. You could be on to something there Thrillbo.

    Laca in the 10 role behind PEA frees up a number of positions behind.

    Here’s what I would do (feel free to use Unai):

    Leno
    L’steiner Mustafi Zorba Monreal
    Torreira
    Bellerin MickeyTar
    Ramsey
    Laca
    PEA

    thrillbo:

    I think our most ‘solid’ configuration might have a Welbeck out on the wings, Auba on the other and Laca centrally. Lacazette looked razor sharp that guy needs to be our central striker or maybe even #10. Have him sit behind PEA? Be the bergkamp to his henry??

  8. Thrillbo,

    For me, its not always about having that big lump, as you call him, but about mentality. Look at Citeh, Chelsea and Liverpool…last season Citeh basically walked the league despite Kompany missing most of the season(their big lump I suppose) but the rest of their side were built about the same and Fernandinho is anything but a big physical presense but they all have that not back down mentality with Fernandinho the enforcer in their. Liverpool until they got VanDijk (even know) are the same height and weight style players but they don’t back down and what might turn out to be their best overall player in Keita is physical but compact along the lines of Kante.

    Its a mentality and its why I can’t wait for Torriera to be unleashed and hopefully paird with Guendouzi who has that same mentality. When Xhaka first arrived, its one of the things I loved about him, that aggression and sure it was reckless at times but he isn’t the first or last and then Arsene said enough of that and we haven’t seen it since unless its it glimpses. I get what your saying but I think its as much the mentality and culture as it is the actual physical presense.

  9. Pete the Thirst,

    I proposed Laca as 10 on Sunday to reinforce my view that we should play both central strikers as strikers. I think Laca’s increased physicality will serve him well. He creates, drops a bit to pick up or hold up the ball. And he will press. I don’t think Auba does much on the wing so let’s have him worry less about buildup and more about getting in the box.

  10. LSG,

    Maybe its just me but I hate that idea. Lets put Lacazette and Aubameyang as high up the pitch as possible to not only press but be on the end of moves not the start as a 10. The other thing is having Lacazette as a 10 means he gets mixed up in the midfield battles. Personally, I think a much greater balance will be brought to our midfield with Torriera to either sit deep playing next to Guendouzi or be that CM pivot next to Xhaka or Elneny that gets to float.

  11. No sooner has the World Cup ended, the Transfer Window closed, a much reduced close-season and probably the toughest league in the world begun……a new series of internationals is about to start.
    Too soon.
    There can be little doubt that support for internationals as compared to club football is on the wane…….certainly in the UK.
    As the old advert for Marmite used to say “Too much spoils the flavour”.
    In my opinion, this is simply not the right time to disrupt the very beginning of a season of “tribal warfare” in the inevitable search for funds…..and very little else. 😉

  12. C,

    Two strikers means one is 9 and the other 10. My only point is that those two should be centrally and high up. Don’t put Auba wide. Let Laca fight to hold up and play others in. Actually, I think you really love the idea, since what you are asking for is exactly what I am saying! The second striker isn’t a midfielder after all. But Laca links well. That’s all I mean. He can be a little like Firmino.

  13. I would be curious to see how the squad is being taught to play out from the back. The difficulty is that our press doesn’t resemble other teams’ press and so you would have to train a ‘b’ team to press like the other teams so that your ‘a’ team can get practice playing it out from the back against them. And, in addition, Man City doesn’t press like Liverpool, etc.

  14. C:
    Thrillbo,

    For me, its not always about having that big lump, as you call him, but about mentality.Look at Citeh, Chelsea and Liverpool…last season Citeh basically walked the league despite Kompany missing most of the season(their big lump I suppose) but the rest of their side were built about the same and Fernandinho is anything but a big physical presense but they all have that not back down mentality with Fernandinho the enforcer in their.Liverpool until they got VanDijk (even know) are the same height and weight style players but they don’t back down and what might turn out to be their best overall player in Keita is physical but compact along the lines of Kante.

    Its a mentality and its why I can’t wait for Torriera to be unleashed and hopefully paird with Guendouzi who has that same mentality. When Xhaka first arrived, its one of the things I loved about him, that aggression and sure it was reckless at times but he isn’t the first or last and then Arsene said enough of that and we haven’t seen it since unless its it glimpses.I get what your saying but I think its as much the mentality and culture as it is the actual physical presense.

    Even without being aggressive Granit has racked up 3 yellows in 4 matches.
    Can you imagine what he’d get if he was told to be more ‘combative’?

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