I can completely relate to where Rob Holding and Sokratis are coming from. Confidence; if you’re brimming with it this morning, you’ll have a good days travails.
Myself? Well, I’m not sure how it’s going to go. I thought I would interweave some lyrics from the song I Have Confidence from The Sound of Music into some witty and pithy observations about the state of Arsenal.
Obviously, I needed to make sure I recalled the lyrics correctly so Googled them. My confidence is shot to pieces when I looked and found I typed “I have condiments” instead. It’s shaping to be that kind of day.
Still, if you plough on with today’s post, you can’t say you haven’t been forewarned.
Some might argue that the defensive pair might have done better to knuckle down and put things right rather than state the bleedin’ obvious that we’re banjaxed by a lack of confidence at the back.
It isn’t just down to the defenders to defend; that starts at the front but it would be useful if the back three, four or five all concentrated on their jobs when others shirk. The defensive record leaves a lot to be desired and is the biggest barrier to us returning to the top four this season.
I made this point in my Southampton preview. We have conceded two or more in six Premier League matches and it just isn’t good enough. Sokratis and Holding know it as well.
Holding got the ball rolling. “We just need to string a couple of wins together and I think that will lift the confidence again,” he believes. It will be the prelude to a run of good results being put together, to haul us back into contention.
Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!
However, he displayed only a tenuous grip on reality:
We’re going into a busy Christmas period now where there’s going to be three Premier League games a week.
We’re eight points off the top four but if we have three wins in a week we’re back up within touching distance so it’s not crisis point by any stretch of the imagination.Can someone show Rob the fixture list?
The Christmas period and through January is, I think, going to define our season. It will tell us with a reasonable certainty, where we are as a team. City at home, Everton away; Chelsea and United at The Emirates; Palace away, Sheffield United at home, topped off with a trip to Stamford Bridge.
Current form suggests we might get five points from those seven games. Holding didn’t think we’re at “crisis point” yet but at the end of January, we may well be.
Meanwhile, Holding puts himself firmly in the Aubameyang camp. The new capitan is “a happy character” who “leads by example on the pitch”. He gave a less ringing endorsement to Granit Xhaka. Holding never “had a problem” with the Swiss but he is, in essence, yesterday’s man. The King is dead! Long live the King!
The ghost of Anthony Quinn in the Guns of Navarone channelled through Sokratis. He’s going to kill us when this season is over, you can just feel it in his bones. In the meantime, he believes a lack of confidence is killing us on the pitch right now.
“The quality is here but I think we need confidence,” was his parting shot. He’s right, of course. Our attacking strength is there on paper as is a decent midfield. However, we’re undermined because we’re not playing as a unit.
It is a season that has a difficult moment, but we have still a lot of time and we need to improve, we need to play better and of course we have the time to do it. We also have the quality to do it.Sokratis nails it
Right now, Arsenal are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s little girl. When we’re good, we’re very, very good but in all honesty, most of the time we are just horrid on the pitch.
That is the output of the lack of confidence and it is the biggest issue for Unai Emery to overcome. If he doesn’t – and there is precious little sign of him doing so – he is doomed. A lot sooner than he may think as well. If we don’t start winning regularly, then the top four is gone and Emery is firmly tied to the ‘failure’ category.
The top four will be out of reach by March on our current form; can the Arsenal hierarchy wait until then to make a decision. As I said yesterday, Tottenham’s actions throw a sharp spotlight on ourselves and whether we’re decisive or ditherers.
As ever, we’ll be found to be ditherers. If we get through January with 15+ points out of that run, the grown-ups are vindicated. You know how it works when we don’t.
And it is a shame we’re thinking in those terms. There is a decent squad in there as I mentioned earlier but it isn’t one which was constructed with Emery’s tactics in mind. Indeed, I’d argue that it wasn’t necessarily constructed for the most part.
Building Towards A Dream
For example, nobody gave a second thought on how Aubameyang and Lacazette fitted into the same XI beyond playing one of them permanently out of position. Nor did Torreira’s signing provide any clarity of thinking on the defensive midfield situation.
Therein is part of the problem, a problem exacerbated by Emery’s garbled football philosophy.
Can confidence be the glue which holds it all together? Perhaps but there’s a feeling that it is papering over cracks which the club must address decisively next summer.
Will we do so? I’m not confident of that.