The similarities between Arsenal’s performances in the Chelsea and United games were striking. Energy and zest in the first half and far less energy in the second.
Mikel Arteta said: “I wanted to play a different rhythm than what I was watching (before taking over). I tried to implement this and at the moment it lasts until one moment in the game. They can cover the distance, probably yes, but at the intensity I want for 90 minutes? No. But it is coming. It is improving a little bit each game and it will get better.”
The improvement is there to see – and backed up by the stats. Collectively the team is running around four miles more per game than under Emery (574 metres more per player, per game). Arsenal were 11th for distance covered per games then, but are now 4th.
And in turnovers high up the pitch they have risen four places to 8th.
Ozil covered the most ground of any Arsenal player in the United match at 7.1 miles and regained possession 10 times.
As Arteta said there have to be systems which support the players and bring out the best in them – and the system seems to be suiting the German. Seems like Emery’s tactics restricted players’ movements in areas of the pitch, and Arteta has given them more freedom under a different structure.
Meanwhile ANR wishes Calum Chambers a successful and speedy recovery from his cruciate ligament injury. But his situation, along with Aston Villa’s Wesley and Heaton – also out for the season is being used to demand changes to football scheduling.
Bobby Barnes of Fifpro, football’s world players’ union, has urged the game’s authorities to address global fixture congestion following the Premier League festive period that has resulted in 53 different injuries. In the 2021-22 season, when there will be a November World Cup, the Africa Cup of Nations and the Concacaf Gold Cup on top of the usual club commitments which he says could represent a tipping point.
The first Premier mid-season break takes place next month with games stretched over a fortnight, but many think it is too short with the European Championship in the summer.
Gary Lewin, the former Arsenal and England physiotherapist said: “Common sense tells you if players are fatigued, the muscles and bones cannot react in the same way”. And he called for players’ welfare to be a bigger part of scheduling.
Fifpro is calling for:
*Mandatory off-season breaks of four weeks and mandatory mid-season breaks of two weeks
*A limit on back-to-back competitive games with less than five days of recovery time
*Consideration of annual match limits
*An early-warning system to monitor match load.
Fifpro said that some players including Sadio Mane and Son Heung-min had played 70 or more games over a 12-month period, including international travel in excess of 50,000 miles, without any mid-season break.
Talking of air miles, an article in The Independent today, highlighting the damaging environmental effects of sport unfairly picks out Arsenal for travelling to Norwich by jet as the only example of bad practice by an individual football club. They could have counterbalanced that with advanced use of battery technology and encouragement of cycling to matches for example.