Blowing Smoke: Resting Players & Not Being Good Enough

The Checkatrade Trophy win at Coventry last night marked a significant moment: the international break is over. Coverage by a national radio station meant there were no other bigger fixtures elsewhere.

A perceptional change also happened. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Lucas Torreira returned early to the club, not through injury but by choice. FAs co-operating with Arsenal? Never happened before; new era, etc. I dare say it did happen before, I just can’t immediately remember it. And I’ll quickly forget this moment as well.

It’s refreshing to see some enlightenment among international coaches. Not for them holding onto to ‘star’ players in desperation for a meaningless friendly. Gareth Southgate missed an opportunity to test younger players. Given England’s youngsters performed well in recent tournaments, it is disappointing he didn’t promote more of them for the Switzerland game. Or the FA skip a match entirely.

Southgate’s familiar warning that if players don’t play for their clubs, they don’t play for England is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Which is Southgate’s case is a big job.

Roberto Mancini faces similar problems in Italy where Serie A players eligible for the Azzurri is at an all-time low. Previously, the Italian authorities solved the problem by becoming a closed shop. Germany did the same by invading countries so everyone became eligible for the national team. The Italian plan might be easier to implement.

Post-Brexit England (apparently) offers that opportunity. Whether anyone wants to come to a destitute wasteland is a different matter but the theory goes that the quality of English players improves if we reduce the number of foreign nationals in the Premier League. It’s a spurious argument; the opportunities for English players increase but there’s no guarantee the quality will follow.

Ahem, This Is An Arsenal Blog You Know

Indeed, English football may be at a ‘peak’ now and there is nothing better to come in which case the ‘Sold Out’ signs won’t be hanging over ticket office windows every week if the quality drops. Those old enough to know better remember how ‘Route One’ overran English football as we sat out of European competition in the 1980s. It wasn’t even exciting most of the time.

The question is not only over the quality of the players but also the way England play. After weeks of caressing the ball for their clubs, they resort to Luddite football for their country. That’s Southgate’s department to bridge the gap between harum-scarum weekly football and the Sunday afternoon drive of internationals. Like others before him, it’s proving too big a divide to solve.

It’s almost as big as the gap between the Arsenal defence and attack. The thumping great void in the middle of the pitch is the biggest problem – literally and figuratively – which Unai Emery must solve. We offered Cardiff City so many chances to score that the issue is urgent.

While the players talk about learning a new way, they are taking leave of their senses at times and that is down to decision-making on their part. We need a genuinely defensive midfielder in the side, sosmeone who has no interest in joining the attack at every available opportunity. Step forward Señor Torreira.

From now until Christmas, we have midweek fixtures to contend with. That offers more opportunities for squad players. Does Emery shift Xhaka into the Europa League squad or Guendouzi? It’s tough on the youngster if he does but that’s life. At this stage, egos are going to be secondary to the team’s objectives. Whether Xhaka would view it the same way is another matter.


Newcastle’s form is as bad as that of Cardiff and West Ham. We are yet to see a clean sheet and while there have been mistakes on the part of the back four, the over-riding sense is that most of eight goals we’ve conceded were avoidable in their execution.

Only when the back four is properly protected can you judge which part(s) don’t work properly. The issue at the heart of the defence in the absence of any better options might be partially solved by a defensive midfielder. It might not be but we’ll never know until we try.

We shall see if that happens this weekend.

’til Tomorrow.

16 thoughts on “Blowing Smoke: Resting Players & Not Being Good Enough

  1. Excellent prose comme d’abitude YW.
    The pause is virtually over. Samedi see normality recommence encore.

    Is Emery giving 36 yr old Peter Cech enough to hang himself with. The limitations of Cechs Game with the ball at his feet have been well documented by all and sundry.

    Is Emery waiting, biding his for a clanger an incident from
    Cech which will then give him ” excuse” to drop Cech(36) and I still Leno? There would be no where back for Cech in such a scenario.

  2. lari03,

    Thanks force for the post. Part 1 confirms the well known view that Cech is simply is not at ease under the system of Emery.

    I fathom to understand what Emery is trying to prove with this Cech experiment

  3. Germany did the same by invading countries so everyone became eligible for the national team. The Italian plan might be easier to implement.
    As FIFA 1998 and 2018 have shown the French colonial plan was the most successful one.

  4. Completely agree that Torriera must start and I will take it a step further and say that Leno must start. Wr play with a highline and Leno is really quick off his line and comfortable with his feet to play sweeper keeper. The difference for instance is against Chelsea, that ball over the top is supposed to be the GK’s to clean up but because Cech is slow and doesn’t want to come off his line it forces Sokaritis and Mustafi to have to go against the tactics and thus exposing them.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind a Torriera/Guendouzi and Xhaka/Elneny partnership or the swapping of Guendouzi and Xhaka for EL and FA Cup matches. Maitland-Niles is still recovering so he doesn’t factor in. What will be interesting to watch is what happens with the likes of Ozil and Ramsey…does Emery play Ozil in the PL and Ramsey in the EL and FA Cup matches. I think the depth is their to allow for that.

  5. Great post Yogi

    Happy that the international break is almost over. We obviously need to win against Newcastle this week. We can’t afford to drop points against teams like this.

  6. Lari03.

    I thought those were interesting U tube posts. U tube scouting is often misleading but I agree about the concerns regarding Xhaka and Bellerin and Torriera should be starting. I like the possibility of Guendouzi as a future regular but the fact that he is the best option we have right now shows how weak the squad which Emery inherited really is. I also agree about the concerns about Cech and certainly Emery can see the same thing we do. The only possible explanations are Emery either does not think Leno is as good as we do with his feet or he is concerned about his ability to stop shots and prevent the other team from scoring. If Leno is not very good at preventing the other team from scoring then it does not matter how good he is with his feet.

    In terms of the attacking side its clear that PEA and Lacazette are the centerpieces of our squad. They need to play together. Its interesting that there was no mention, either good or bad about Ozil who in theory should be our best player. Its another indication of how he has become mostly invisible.

  7. Bill,

    I’ll call bullshit if your saying because Guendouzi is the best option and young the squad is weak. Citeh won the league with the youngest avergae squad last season, Liverpool started youngsters at both FB positions and you rave about them (despite the fact they have won fuck all), was Bayern’s squad weak because after Lahm retired Kimmich was the best option at RB or how about PSG with Raboit or Madrid not buying a winger(they could have splashed the cash on Hazard) because they had Asensio as the best option.

    You focus so much on age despite the fact that there are younger players that are just talented. There is a reason why Guendouzi was at PSG and they fought to keep him before he left for more match time. Please don’t give me the crap about younger players are inconsistent because senior players are equally as inconsistent….look around WORLD FUTBOL.

  8. While I continue to believe that Emery does have a plan in who he starts and why, I cannot explain why he starts Cech and not Leno and why Torriera doesn’t start. In Cech’s case, he has played well, if you ignore his passing/clearing (although that is part of the conversation.) In Torriera’s case, he may have been resting him after the WC – which would also mean he won’t start against Newcastle since he picked up a knock with Uruguay. We’ll see.
    Wenger was infamous for having his “untouchables” but I doubt Emery looks at it that way and he certainly won’t have that luxury. Let the games begin (again.)

  9. C

    I never said that Liverpools fullbacks were that great. I did say they were examples of how you don’t have to pay a lot of money to get a decent fullback who is perfectly adequate and probably better then Hector at least on the defensive end of the pitch. I the rumors about $40M offers for Hector were anywhere close to be true then its the same as having spent $40M for a fullback and given the state of our squad we could have used that was a huge waste of an opportunity. I suspect that we will regret missing the opportunity to sell him just like we missed the opportunity to sell Jack Wilshere when he was reportedly worth $50M. With regard to the other players you mention such as Kimmich and Asensio and Rabiot they all of them are several years older and have a much much more experience then Guenduozi. I don’t think any of the players who are regulars for Man City are still teenagers and have basically no first team experience.

  10. I doubt that any of the worlds other big teams would have a squad where a 19 year old whose total experience is 21 games for a side in the French second division would be considered their best option in central midfield.

  11. Bill,

    Liverpool’s starting RB is 19 year old academy product who Klopp handed the reigns over to last season and Robertson is 24 and basically played for shit sides….both an example of everything that you said couldn’t happen: find quality in shit sides and young players bursting through and a manager allowing them to grow but coaching them up.

    Kimmich is just now 23 but when Bayern turned the reigns over to him after Lahm retired(truthfully even before that) he was 20-21. Raboit is 23 years old and since he was 21 was key to PSG midfield already racking up 137 appearances. Asensio is only 22 years old and was a key cog for Zidane since he was 18-19 years old. Guendouzi is 19 and nobody is saying bang on starter but most certainly be a key piece of the midfield.

Comments are closed.