Good evening. There’s an Indian summer on the way to Britain apparently, which means it will feel nice and warm outside while most of us are cooped up in an air-conditioned office all day, before rapidly cooling to about minus 8 by the time we clock off and head home. Brilliant.
And I’ll tell you what else was brilliant – Germany’s intricate, pass and move football tonight. Efficiently Spain-esque. With Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan in the hole behind former club-mate Mario Gotze, our own Mesut Ozil to the left and Thomas Muller on the right, as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos added balletic ballast to the middle of the park behind them, the World Cup winners were a joy to watch.
Admittedly, two uncharacteristically bad pieces of ‘keeping by Manuel Neuer allowed hosts Scotland to twice wipe out a goal by Muller, but Germany’s class told in the end as Gundogan coolly guided home a first-time effort off an upright to secure a 3-2 win.
It did make me wonder about the need to always play a target man up front. Germany had Gotze acting as a false forward today and although a big, slick pitch helped Germany to find space, it highlighted for me, the fact that if you have intelligent footballers in every position tuned into the same wavelength and all thinking two, three steps ahead, having a big lump in the middle, or even blistering pace out wide, becomes less important.
Because you domintae the ball, rest in possession, which in turn allows you to hunt in packs at high energy and win the ball back very quickly and efficiently, which means it’s usually a matter of time before your next goal-scoring opportunity arrives. Spain set the standard, Germany have almost matched it I’d say, and if one or two other countries can come close to putting together a similar-minded selection of players by next summer, the Euros would be all the more exciting and open as a contest.
And perhaps if Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott continue to struggle up front in Danny Welbeck’s absence, it might be worth us trying a striker-less system at some point. Obviously with so much riding on each game in the league and in Europe, trialing new formations is very risky, but if we find ourselves with a meaningless game at the end of the Champions League group stages for instance, trying Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey or maybe even Santi Cazorla as our most advanced attacker would be an interesting exercise. We could marvel at mendacious Jack, sophistical Santi or ersatz Aaron. Then ask the boss what the f*ck he was thinking if it doesn’t work. Win win.
Provided that is, whoever was chosen, kept some discipline, occupied the space around the opposition defence and didn’t get sucked into the build-up play too often. I thought Gotze did that brilliantly tonight, displaying velvety close-control, great movement and providing a constant goal threat despite not boasting size, strength or pace, among his best attributes as a player.
Andrei Arshavin was once deployed at the tip of our attack of course, but it only works if the player moves and as we all remember, our former little Russian was a little on the lazy side. And by lazy I mean he was scandalously inactive – on a good day.
Anyway, as you may have guessed from the fact I’m doing my best to Pep up this blog with groundbreaking tactical thoughts, there’s very little to talk about Arsenal-wise today. Thankfully, we’re not too far from emerging from Cloid. Before we do though, England host Switzerland at Wembley tomorrow evening and with a chance of being on show is Basel’s teenage striker Breel Embolo.
The 18 year old is very highly rated by many observers, including German football writer Rafael Honigstein who’s tipped the player to become a ‘superstar’. Unsurprisingly, several big clubs around Europe, allegedly including us, are already eyeing up bids for the player and Wolfsburg reportedly had an offer rejected on deadline day last week.
There’s nothing like a new starlet worth scouting to get me up for watching what would otherwise be merely another mundane international friendly. I just hope Embolo gets some minutes to show what he’s got.