The Giroud Delusion
This was a great match. Leicester supremely confident and playing their very fast pressing and breaking game. Arsenal beginning to find confidence and form again.
Leicester’s pressing style reminds me of Dortmund and the current Spurs team (yuck). When players are pressing so fast and so together, it seems to me to make them think faster, with the result that Arsenal looked ponderous, often playing passes that were intercepted with lightning speed by Leicester.
So why were we playing in such a measured way, rather than in the fast rapier style with which we dismantlwed Man U? One answer may well be that we were nervous of losing a top of the table match - nervous of conceding an eight point deficit. And, some key players have not returned from injury firing on all cylinders yet. Alexis, for example, seems to have recovered his ball retention and winning back skills as well as his ability to spot and execute a pass, but his shooting seems way off as yet. Ramsey is misplacing far too many passes (and I also thought he bottled out of that race to the ball against Schmeichel.) But I also think it has something to do with the current tactical set up.
We’ve been playing with Giroud up top, and, especially in the last couple of games, have looked to use him to knock down balls for others in the penalty box. And it’s worked well. However, I think it also stops us from looking for the ball behind the defence, as we can do when Walcott’s up top. This means the build up play is slower, because ther’e always a sense that when it goes to Giroud, it has to come back rather than forward, meaning that the team as a whole expects stop rather than flow.
And I wonder if this doesn’t have a braking effect on the whole team, somehow causing them to think slower, as well as move slower. Re-watching the game today, the only time when we started to play with real speed using one-touch passing, was the last ten minutes, when we had both Theo and Welbeck on.
Before this I was delighted to see Theo back on the right. My belief is that the reason he’s looked poor in the last month or so, is that he was asked to fill in Alexis’s role on the left, so that the way the team played could be preserved in Alexis’s absence. And, of course, Theo has a quite different skill set. To his credit, he has vastly improved his defensive intent (if not, always, effectiveness), but he’s looked like a square peg in a round hole on the left. On Sunday, playing on the right, he looked much more at home, and really pumped up - I thought his response to Giroud not getting on the end of one of his crosses quite telling. And, his ability to score the vital first goal (as in the cup final) is often underestimated in comparison with flashier later efforts.
None of this is meant to be critical of Giroud, who played his role with great determination and skill. All I’ve been trying to understand in this piece, is why we often look unsettled, and unable to keep the ball in the face of fast-pressing teams - why we look like we think slower than them.
All this said, it was the result we had so badly needed. A 6 pointer in our favour. But with this being the run in for the title, we are finally picking up momentum.