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Arsenal's form could be his downfall

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – APRIL 07: Shkodran Mustafi of the Arsenal reacts during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Arsenal FC at Goodison Park on April 7 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Harriet Lander / Copa / Getty Images)

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Only a week ago, the Arsenal seemed to be quite nice. The Gunners were fresh after an impressive 2-0 win over Newcastle and a victory over Manchester United first. Having missed a match in the Premier League from a defeat at the start of the week against Manchester City leaders, Arsenal rose to the third position in the standings with 63 points, equaling his total score for the entire 2017-18 season with seven games left to play. And with none of the top six teams in the league left his program, a top-4 finish seemed to be for the grip.

Then came the weekend and with it a trip to Goodison Park to face the Everton, and the unbeatable run of the Arsenal collapsed spectacularly. Phil Jagielka scored at 10 & # 39; to give the Everton a 1-0 lead and put the Arsenal behind the eighth. Forced to chase the game from that point on, they could find nothing close to a cohesive attack. The Arsenal managed only seven shots for the game and failed to put together a cohesive push towards the door, while the sloppy pass after the sloppy pass from every direction. The Toffees won 1-0 and Arsenal returned to fifth place.

But there is a broader context for the horrible representation of the Arsenal on Merseyside: the Gunners have been terrible on the road this season. The club lost six times to the Emirates in the Premier League, against only five victories on the road and four draws. (Compare that to the Arsenal record at home, where he is unbeaten with 14 wins and two draws.) There is a club in the Premier League that plays better on the road than it does at home, and this is obviously expected. But the Arsenal is the only club in the top six that is not among the top six of the away table. The Gunners sit all the way to tenth position this season.

To make matters worse, four of the last six Premier League games of the Arsenal will be on the road. Those four trips wander around the club like the Sword of Damocles with all the potential to ruin the very promising Arsenal season if it can't find a cure for its fast and road problems.

The most obvious culprit for the Arsenal woes – and the most intangible – is mental fragility. When the Arsenal plays in the Emirates, with all the resulting comforts, it can play extraordinary football. But when those comforts are taken away and players are forced to travel by bus or fly to a place, dress in an unknown locker room surrounded by unknown stewards and security and play in front of an inhospitable crowd, players fall to pieces.

The real danger, if it is really the mental weakness that is causing these poor results, is that bad performances are perpetuated. A player's mind moves away from "we are not winning on the road " to "we can't win on the road. "Then the pressure builds up to get a result on the road in an attempt to break the bad run of the form, and this pressure, in turn, only makes you play worse. It's a vicious circle.

To give credit to the notion that the poor form of Arsenal is perpetuated is the absent form of the Arsenal last season. The Gunners were actually worse on the road last year. Much worse. They finished the 11th season 2017/18 away, losing 11 away games with only four wins and four draws.

But players shouldn't get all the blame. After all, it is the manager's job to find a way to motivate his team to change shape or find a tactical way out of it. Unai Emery did not do, like Arsene Wenger, last season. In fact, Emery's tactics could exacerbate the problem.

The Arsenal is at its best when playing outside the back, so the best way to defend yourself is to press up and prevent distribution from the back. When the Gunners are traveling, their opponents have the home crowd behind them and they will feel more free to stay active, press up and try to dictate the game. But instead of sticking to the team's strengths and trying to play against a more aggressive defense, Emery typically tries to play a solid defense and win on the bench. And this can work, especially when the Arsenal scores first and can protect an advantage, even though it may not always be nice. But when the opponent scores first, as Everton did on Sunday, Emery doesn't have a coherent plan to move from reactive to proactive, and results in a sloppy mess as the team tries to push forward while maintaining the deficit from the get worse.

If the problem is as simple as an abundance of caution, the solution is just as simple: pay attention to the wind. Treat the matches as a home, tactically speaking and attack immediately outside the gate. Because any defect can accompany such a strategy, the results cannot get worse.

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – APRIL 07: Shkodran Mustafi of the Arsenal reacts during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Arsenal FC at Goodison Park on April 7 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Harriet Lander / Copa / Getty Images)

Getty

Only a week ago, the Arsenal seemed to be quite nice. The Gunners were fresh after an impressive 2-0 win over Newcastle and a victory over Manchester United first. Having missed a match in the Premier League from a defeat at the start of the week against Manchester City leaders, Arsenal rose to the third position in the standings with 63 points, equaling his total score for the entire 2017-18 season with seven games left to play. And with none of the top six teams in the league left his program, a top-4 finish seemed to be for the grip.

Then came the weekend and with it a trip to Goodison Park to face the Everton, and the unbeatable run of the Arsenal collapsed spectacularly. Phil Jagielka scored at 10 & # 39; to give the Everton a 1-0 lead and put the Arsenal behind the eighth. Forced to chase the game from that point on, they could find nothing close to a cohesive attack. The Arsenal managed only seven shots for the game and failed to put together a cohesive push towards the door, while the sloppy pass after the sloppy pass from every direction. The Toffees won 1-0 and Arsenal returned to fifth place.

But there is a broader context for the horrible representation of the Arsenal on Merseyside: the Gunners have been terrible on the road this season. The club lost six times to the Emirates in the Premier League, against only five victories on the road and four draws. (Compare that to the Arsenal record at home, where he is unbeaten with 14 wins and two draws.) There is a club in the Premier League that plays better on the road than it does at home, and this is obviously expected. But the Arsenal is the only club in the top six that is not among the top six of the away table. The Gunners sit all the way to tenth position this season.

To make matters worse, four of the last six Premier League games of the Arsenal will be on the road. Those four trips wander around the club like the Sword of Damocles with all the potential to ruin the very promising Arsenal season if it can't find a cure for its fast and road problems.

The most obvious culprit for the Arsenal woes – and the most intangible – is mental fragility. When the Arsenal plays in the Emirates, with all the resulting comforts, it can play extraordinary football. But when those comforts are taken away and players are forced to travel by bus or fly to a place, dress in an unknown locker room surrounded by unknown stewards and security and play in front of an inhospitable crowd, players fall to pieces.

The real danger, if it is really the mental weakness that is causing these poor results, is that bad performances are perpetuated. A player's mind moves away from "we are not winning on the road " to "we can't win on the road. "Then the pressure builds up to get a result on the road in an attempt to break the bad run of the form, and this pressure, in turn, only makes you play worse. It's a vicious circle.

To give credit to the notion that the poor form of Arsenal is perpetuated is the absent form of the Arsenal last season. The Gunners were actually worse on the road last year. Much worse. They finished the 11th season 2017/18 away, losing 11 away games with only four wins and four draws.

But players shouldn't get all the blame. After all, it is the manager's job to find a way to motivate his team to change shape or find a tactical way out of it. Unai Emery did not do, like Arsene Wenger, last season. In fact, Emery's tactics could exacerbate the problem.

The Arsenal is at its best when playing outside the back, so the best way to defend yourself is to press up and prevent distribution from the back. When the Gunners are traveling, their opponents have the home crowd behind them and they will feel more free to stay active, press up and try to dictate the game. But instead of sticking to the team's strengths and trying to play against a more aggressive defense, Emery typically tries to play a solid defense and win on the bench. And this can work, especially when the Arsenal scores first and can protect an advantage, even though it may not always be nice. But when the opponent scores first, as Everton did on Sunday, Emery doesn't have a coherent plan to move from reactive to proactive, and results in a sloppy mess as the team tries to push forward while maintaining the deficit from the get worse.

If the problem is as simple as an abundance of caution, the solution is just as simple: pay attention to the wind. Treat the matches as a home, tactically speaking and attack immediately outside the gate. Because any defect can accompany such a strategy, the results cannot get worse.

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