Merson Says: Pep, Jose, Wenger, Fergie... whoever is Arsenal boss, you're in trouble if you can't pass five yards!
"I don't care if you've got Pep sitting on Jose's lap, on top of Fergie's lap, on top of Wenger's lap and all four are one manager: if you've got a defender who can't pass five yards, you're in trouble"
Last Updated: 13/07/20 5:37pm
In his latest column, Paul Merson slams Arsenal for shooting themselves in the foot again with silly mistakes in the defeat by Tottenham.
Just minutes after Arsenal took a 1-0 lead in Sunday's north London derby, Sead Kolasinac's miscued square pass to David Luiz allowed Heung-Min Son to pounce and equalise, as Spurs went on to win 2-1 late on.
Merson believes players are becoming scared of statistics and are playing easy balls to increase their pass success percentage, and also touches on Chelsea's 3-0 defeat by Sheffield United ahead of a vital final two weeks of the season.
'Pep, Jose, Fergie, whoever... you're in trouble if you can't pass it five yards'
Last week against Leicester was the first time I've watched Arsenal play in the last few years where I got excited and thought: "Wow... I can see what they're trying to do here. There's a plan here, an actual plan. They're trying to spring traps, playing as a team, there's a tempo."
For the first time, it felt like you could see what they were trying to do, not the "you have a shot, we have a shot" mentality, where sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
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But against Spurs, I don't care if you've got Pep Guardiola sitting on Jose Mourinho's lap, on top of Sir Alex Ferguson's lap, on top of Arsene Wenger's lap and all four of them are one manager: if you've got a defender who can't pass the ball five yards to another defender, you are in trouble.
When the manager puts on a training session and you're doing five-yard passes to start off with, everybody is moaning: "What the hell are we doing this for? Who can't pass the ball five yards?" But that is why. It's concentration, so you can keep on doing it without even thinking about it, like you're brushing your teeth in the morning.
It's just a really, really poor pass. But that's Arsenal, they have that ability to shoot themselves in the foot. He could play that in his sleep, he didn't even have to turn around.
But this raises another question, and I don't know why footballers do this. All Kolasinac has to do is dink that down the line, but if he sticks it down the line and a defender comes across and clears for a throw in, that doesn't count as a completed pass in the stats. Footballers are so obsessed with pass percentages. Defenders want 88, 89, 90 per cent pass completion, but they're all five-yard passes to each other! Who cares? Honestly?
There are so many stats now, and players are scared of them, so try to play the easy ball! If that ball reaches David Luiz, what is he going to do with it? I'll tell you: he'll roll it back to the goalkeeper, the goalkeeper will get closed down, and he will clear it up to halfway, which is where Arsenal were to begin with! It's just common sense. These are international players!
All these players should care about is keeping clean sheets: that should be like scoring a hat-trick for a defender. You want defenders who think that way.
'Spurs, Arsenal a million miles behind'
If Arsenal had lasted another 10 minutes without conceding, there was only one winner in the football match. Arsenal were the better team, let's be honest, Tottenham played a certain way, and that's how Tottenham are going to play from now on I'm afraid. They'll be hard to beat, get behind the ball, and try to counter attack.
They have the pace on the counter attack to hurt teams, with Heung-Min Son and Steven Bergwijn. Tottenham aren't a good enough team to open the game up. When you watch Spurs play Arsenal, and then watch Man City, it's chalk and cheese. They are so far behind, it is mind-blowing.
It's horrible, because we always played football to win something. I went to Middlesbrough to win promotion. I went to Portsmouth because I wanted to win promotion. You look at these two clubs now, and they're going to kick next season off looking to get fourth.
So your grandchild is going to sit on your lap in years to come, asking: "Granddad, what did you win?" And you'll say: "Well, we finished fourth three times in a row." They'll say: "Fourth? You don't even get a medal in the Olympics for fourth!"
I just find it frustrating. They are a million miles behind.
'Frank learned a lot about himself and team'
I think Frank Lampard will have found out a lot about his players and himself at Sheffield United. Going there is always going to be a difficult game; they're going to get the ball wide, into the box, they're going to close you down… it's not going to be enjoyable.
He sets up in midfield with Jorginho, Ross Barkley and Mason Mount. When are you getting the ball back? How are you getting the ball back?
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They had a lot of the ball, but it's not the 70 per cent of the ball they had, it's the 30 per cent they don't have that is most important.
For my 70 per cent you've got Willian, Christian Pulisic, Barkley, Mount, but it's too open in midfield. The defence get the blame, but you could be Costacurta, Baresi, Maldini, if you don't have strong midfield players in front of you, you're just going to have people run at you left, right and centre.
That's what Sheffield United do to you, they get in your face. I think Frank learned a lot about the way the players just accepted the way the game was going.
But they're still well in it with Leicester getting beat, but they have to bounce back. They can't crash now with three games remaining; it's a huge two weeks for Frank Lampard now.
Arsenal host champions Liverpool on Wednesday at 8.15pm, live on Sky Sports, take on Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday at 7.45pm, travel to Aston Villa on July 21 at 8.15pm and complete their Premier League season at home to Watford at 4pm on July 26.
Spurs travel to Newcastle on Wednesday at 6pm, host Leicester on Super Sunday at 4pm before concluding their Premier League campaign away at Crystal Palace at 4pm on July 26.
Chelsea host relegated Norwich on Tuesday at 8.15pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League, and then go to Liverpool on July 22 at 8.15pm, also live on Sky Sports, before finishing the season at home to Wolves at 4pm on July 26.