Or just easing them a bit?
The relief of Thursday Night Football is quickly swept away by the tidal wave of the Premier League crashes on our shores.
Amy Lawrence in the Athletic observed that we operate in an “unsteady environment…where perceptions seem to mostly exist as either feast or famine”.
As usual, that manifested in overwhelming overstating of the cases for the younger players who performed well. Willock, Saka and Nelson all delivered on the occasions when they were called upon.
Above and beyond? Everyone has a good spell; you’ll find out more about these lads when things are going pear-shaped.
Our issue isn’t the young ‘uns; it’s the older heads and prices will be paid in coming weeks. The problem is that we’ll address the issues on the defensive flanks before the soft centre. Rob Holding is set to return either Sunday or against Forest in the Carabao Cup.
We’ve been cautious with him so far; does another week really matter? One more game. In some senses, yes; Villa at home is followed in the Premier League with a trip to Old Trafford. Do we really want a player making his return from injury in the graveyard of our dreams?
Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin are set to return but after baby steps with the Under-23s last night, that’s still some way off, surely?
Having younger defenders, more athletic than their elders, returning is great for the team. Both Bellerin and Tierney want to make up for lost time; it’s great motivation but like Holding, they aren’t the balm to ease our sores.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles will drop to the bench, covering both full-back and defensive midfield if needed. It’s hard to see where that happens; we’re well-stocked in midfield. Not in that role but we’ve got bodies…
This Tremendous Burden All Alone
Emery knows this or publicly hints at it. He jumped on board the bandwagon which is hurtling toward the Emirates. The one which left tactics in the luggage sitting forlornly on the platform long after departure.
After the win in Germany, the Spaniard told the listening world, “We need to be more competitive and also we need to improve defensively.”
It wasn’t any one player’s fault. he declared and certainly not the “defensive players or the goalkeeper”; it’s down to the whole team. “We need,” he declared, “to be more compact.”
Which is surprisingly succinct for a man whose linguistic skills some decree are the problem.
It’s not that simple, however.
Sometimes we are defending deep, more deep than we want. A lot of shots they are not important, not dangerous for us, but we don’t want to defend those situations deep a lot of times.Why shots conceded hurts us
Therein is why conceded 300m shots in the past few games is an important statistic. The shots in themselves, the ones which fly high, wide or straight into a defender’s knackers, aren’t important. They are a stat like the body count in an episode of The Wire.
What they signal is we are under pressure, being forced to defend “deep”. Too deep. The ground between defence, midfield and attack becomes strung out, too wide to breach so you cede possession cheaply. In short, we play like junior players learning tactics for the first time.
Unai knows it’s an issue and he knows how to solve the problem:
We need to improve, we need as a team to be more compact and start our pressing a little more ahead, not let the opposition get to our box quickly.To be resolved on the training ground
Lambs Go To The Slaughter
The question is why this is still a problem. It’s nothing new – it’s a hangover from last season.
As is the lack of leadership on the pitch. While it’s true the majority of our issues will be resolved at London Colney, the experienced players must be braver on the pitch.3
We’re told we can play out from the back if we stop misusing David Luiz. Will he be playing when Holding is fit? Neither the Brazilian or Sokratis is covering themselves in glory this season with their individual errors.
It’s a circular argument in many respects. Drop one because they played badly in this match, drop the other because he played badly in that one. Should we play Mustafi because he’s less accident-prone than the rest?
Well, if I’m going to be that silly, I’m calling it a day for today.