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Post Match Review

Three Things We Learned From Bournmouth 1 – 1 Arsenal


The Mikel Arteta era at Arsenal took flight yesterday as Arsenal visited the Vitality Stadium to take on Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth. While the Gunners were unable to get the win, there was plenty to talk about.

With that, we take a look at the three things we learned from the Gunners most recent Premier League tie.

Rome Wasn’t Built in A Day

The road back to competitiveness and respectability is going to be a long one for Arsenal. The issues that have permeated the club are deeply embedded into the psyche of the club right now.

From poor individual performances to a lack of consistent play, the issues began years ago and came to ahead under the ill-prepared Unai Emery. In other words, Arteta’s work is cut out for him.

But from the get-go, from his first interview to the post-match comments yesterday, Arteta has struck the right tone of expectation, accountability and patience. Arsenal took important steps in the match but those expecting a turnaround or bounce may have been a little frustrated.

Still, there were tangible signs that even after only a few sessions together the squad is responding to Arteta. In his post-match comments the newly minted head coach had this to say:

I’m very pleased with some of the things I’ve seen, in terms of attitude, character, the passion we showed, and the fight and spirit the team showed. It was spot on. Probably better than I expected over 90 minutes. A lot of things that happened in the game, we prepared. They understood them and they tried to take them on board. We lacked the final product at the end.

The encouraging signs were certainly there. Arsenal managed to dominate play with possession of 61% on the road and outshooting their opponent 17-11. If these seem like trifling statistics then you’ve clearly missed the fact that on the road, under Emery Arsenal barely had the ball and they let opponents shoot at them at will.

We shouldn’t get carried away though as there still is work to do. Defensively there were moments to worry about as Bournemouth’s goal and some of their chances continued to highlight the biggest weakness in this Arsenal side.

Additionally, the attack wasted chance after chance to put this match away as Lacazette continued to lack the confidence in front of goal necessary for a team needing goals. The highlight of the Gunners profligacy in front of goal came with what started off as a beautiful 4v2 counter-attack ending in a wasted chance on goal.

This is going to be a long process and thinking anything but that is not grasping the nature of the issues facing Arteta. He clearly is a man with a clear philosophy and doing everything he can to get his players to buy into it.

Today was the first step in a long road. But it was a promising first step and if the steps continue to go like this, it won’t take long for the Gunners to start getting the points they need to push up the table.

Mesut was Mesut Again

One of the biggest disappointments in the waning months of Arsene Wenger and in the entirety of Emery’s tenure was the continual poor performance of Mesut Özil. We all know the talent level the German playmaker has in his tool kit but for the longest time it seemed like his desire and ability had left him.

With Arteta taking the helm, he stated early on that all players start with him with a clean slate. And if today is any indication it seems that this has suited the German just fine.

One of the chief complaints of Özil supporters has been is that Emery never set the team up to get the best out of his players. And with Özil that manifested itself by seeing him drop deeper to get on the ball.

If you’ve followed Özil long enough you know that the worst thing you could have him do is drop deep to get the ball and take on defenders 1v1. For all of his talents, he is not a dribbler. He isn’t going to be successful in breaking the press by dribbling to get free.

No, when Özil is on, it’s when he is told to float in the midfield and find the space between the lines and then look for the final ball into the box. If you paid any attention to his play today, then you know this is exactly how he played today.

The result was a solid performance from the German who seemed invigorated once again. Throughout the match, Xhaka was finding Özil in space resulting in his patent pass into the box. If Lacazette had been on form today, he could’ve given our mercurial number 10 at least an assist or two.

However, it wasn’t just the passes that Özil was making but it was his overall effort. He was pressing effectively and directing players on the pitch. It was a performance we hadn’t seen in quite a long time. It was also a performance his head coach noticed:

To be fair his attitude in training since the day that I walked in the building has been incredible. I’ve seen this. I’ve said that I was going to give a clean slate to everybody and it was fair to give it to him. When we did the game preparation and were watching the opponents, where we could hurt them, we believed that he could be a key point. We prepared the game like this with him. He responded, did what he had to do, and we could’ve scored two or three goals because of him.

Confidence in Front of Goal Still Lacking

One of the most common sayings in sports psychology is that football is 90% mental and 105 technical. That may or may not be true but a player’s confidence or lack thereof can have a significant impact on their performance.

The forward who is supremely confident makes almost every shot and even the most difficult looks easy. Conversely, a forward without confidence in front of goal will make the easiest shots look difficult and almost always not put them away.

Such was the case yesterday.

As the head coach mentioned, Özil offered up two or three opportunities for Lacazette to put the match away however, the Frenchman made the simple look complex and fluffed his lines frequently.

Even if it wasn’t a chance made by Özil, when the Gunners got into the final third, the quality of the chances created diminished once inside the 18. It looked difficult or awkward.

I once sat with a sports psychologist and asked about the confidence of a player and how do you help them get it back. Dr. Sara Erdner who used to work with Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates used the analogy of a struggling hitter and how she would work with them to try and just get the first hit and then take it from there.

As Arteta is working with his attacking players, he obviously is going to be preaching patience and doing the simple things right, like touch or shooting technique. He will them to just get that first goal and once it goes in, it should hopefully help break the mental block hurting our attacking players at the moment.

Extra Time

 When was the last time an Arsenal match felt disappointing because they should’ve won it? It probably goes back some time however, that was a take away from this match. Even after the first Bournemouth goal, the match didn’t seem lost or out of their hands.

Under Emery, many fans would just wait for the oppositions second goal. But this match was different.

Arsenal weren’t disorganized, they weren’t lost and they most certainly didn’t look defeated. They fought back and played to their strengths. The result was a team that should’ve come away from Bouremouth with more than 1 point and that in itself is a marked improvement over the last regime.



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