Arsenal’s Need for Speed is Real
By Rob Worthington
Arsenal have blown hot and cold in the Premier League so far this season. Wins against Fulham and Manchester United away gave us reason for optimism. However, by contrast, defeat at the hands of Leicester City and Aston Villa at the Emirates have given us stark reality checks.
In all our games this season, including the victories, there has been a rather disconcerting running theme. Lethargy on the ball. On far too many occasions for our liking we’ve seen under hit passes and conservative ‘attacking’ football from Mikel Arteta’s men.
With regard to the profile of the player we have in our squad, playing slow, patient football just isn’t the way to maximise our resources. The likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nico Pépé and Bukayo Saka are transition footballers. There is an argument so suggest Willian and Lacazette are similar to this trio in that regard. They enjoy getting at disjointed defences.
Right now, as a result of our slow build-up play, every time we attack a well-structured defence seems to be in our way. Thus, our players are met with the task of having to intricately cut open what Mikel Arteta refers to as “low blocks”. This, straightforwardly, isn’t what our players specialise in.
A minor change in mentality is all that is required to speed up our play. A high tempo has to be set at the get-go, and it needs to be maintained. Major systematic change isn’t necessary. Quite simply, our players just need to be prepared to gamble and become a little more incisive with their passing.
If this change doesn’t occur, a few more humblings could be on their way for Mikel Arteta. Dean Smith’s game plan against us was absolutely spot on at the weekend. He got his players playing with a ruthlessness and speed which completely juxtaposed how we have been operating this season and we were thus torn to shreds at times.
If we have serious intentions of mounting a top four challenge this season, we cannot let teams set the tempo against us as Villa did on Sunday. We have to be the tempo setters. On a weekly basis, we have to grab games by the scruff of the neck. If we don’t, Mikel Arteta shall experience the merciless nature of the Premier League at full throttle.
Theoretically, speeding things up should help to somewhat nullify our creative problems. Playing to the strengths of our best attacking players should bring the best out of our attack as a whole. Through a disruptive press and fast counterattack, an opportunity arises to expose fragmented opposing defences.
As aforementioned, we lack players who can intricately cut defences open. Therefore, it would be sensible to attempt to create scenarios where we are met with the task of breaking down disorganised defences as opposed to highly organised backlines.
Playing faster football can also be beneficial for our less offensively-minded personnel. When teams set a high tempo it tends to enhance their concentration levels and therefore decrease the chance of sloppy errors. Meanwhile, I'm sure players prefer it when they don't have fans on their back for delivering consistent lacklustre performance.
The need for speed throughout the Arsenal team, particularly going forward, is very, very real.