The Arsenal-Milan Hybrid – a new tweaked strategy next season?

June 30, 2012

Written by Sagar Tarkhadkar

The recent signings of Monsieur Giroud and Herr Podolski has excited Gooners all over the globe. Providing we keep our Captain Vantastic , we will have a fearsome attack consisting of 3 strikers who contributed to approximately 114 goals in the 2011-12 season. Add to that the pace and directness of Walcott, the dribbling, mesmerizing feet of Gervinho and the technique and youthful exuberance of the Ox, and we have a versatile front three providing an array of attacking options suitable for any kind of opposition on any given day.

However, a lot has been discussed about our midfield options ever since Fabregas and that ‘chinless guy who sits on the bench’ departed last season, in addition to the Wilshere injury. Honestly, Arteta, Song, Rosicky, Ramsey have done admirably well to steer our boat through the dark, muddy waters and get us to that 3rd place finish. But it is a known fact that to compete for the title and CL, we need an additional midfielder in the middle of the park, and as such we have been linked to defensive as well as attacking midfielders in the past couple of months. I won’t certainly speculate as to which specific player we should sign and we shouldn’t, because I feel that Wenger has a better idea than all of us as far as benefit of the team is concerned. But I would certainly like to contribute an idea, which I feel Wenger might implement next season, given his affinity for versatility he likes in his midfielders. I give you the Arsenal-Milan hybrid:

Arsenal for the past few seasons have played with a 4-2-3-1 formation, which can double up into a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1 whenever needed. Most of the attacking play goes through a central advanced playmaker, and two wingers who dash into the box, along with overlapping wingbacks. This attacking formation is generally supported by two central midfielders, one who is a box to box type, while the other who is more like a destroyer or a pivot as some like to call it. The main idea is to keep possession for as long as the playmaker finds a chink in the armor and provides a defense splitting pass to the strikers. The pivot shields the defence whenever the fullbacks bomb forward.  The evolution of Song, from a destroyer to a more complete rounded midfielder has opened up a plethora of possibilities that Wenger can exploit next season. Given the rumour that Wenger is in the market in search for a defensive midfielder so as to exploit Song’s attacking instincts, and the fact that Wilshere is well on his way to fitness next season, we certainly seem to have an embarrassment of riches in the middle as we have them upfront.

Ac Milan generally play with a 4-3-1-2 formation in which the advanced playmaker/centre forward is shielded by 3 defensive midfielders, one of which doubles up as a deep lying playmaker(regista or the Pirlo role). This provides more stability in the middle, but somehow it lacks the width which can be exploited more in the English game.

In case we do sign a proper defensive midfielder as rumored, we can see Song/Arteta , the new CDM and Wilshere/Arteta lined up in the middle next season, which can offer us more stability in the middle of the park and help us boss the midfield . This is also favorable for the defence which leaked in 49 goals, most of them on the counterattack, due to Song’s and Vermaelen’s adventurous forays forward. As far as the playmaking role goes, instead of playing a proper trequartista, we can play two deep lying box to box playmakers who will share duties of both attack and defence, while the pivot maintains balance in the middle. We already have 4 apt midfielders of that box-to-box quality in Jack, Song, Arteta and Coquelin. In addition, we are fortunate enough to have someone of RVP’s caliber, who can mostly double up as a false 9, fall back and provide assists for Podolski and Walcott who can cut in. Giroud’s addition on the bench allows us to switch to a more attacking 4-4-2 in case we need to chase a game, as well as it provides RVP some rest. It also allows us to switch to our original 4-2-3-1 with Giroud as a target man against a few lesser teams.

On the attack, both the box to box players can playmake, keeping possession with the pivot. The wingbacks can bomb forward and switch with the wingers who can cut inside. On defence, all three midfielders can clog the centre thus cutting off all channels of the opposition attack, and then on the counterattack, RVP can fall back, thus temporarily switching to the Milan formation and allowing Podolski/Walcott to be temporary strikers in the box. The main idea is to always keep the pivot available to shield the defence and gather possession, forcing the opposition to make turnovers and avoid any counterattacks. Also, I feel that if we have a single playmaker as we do now, opposition can crowd him out thus making our attack impotent(as they did with Fabregas).

What I am suggesting is that we do not need to change our formation altogether but just tweak it a bit. Wenger likes playing to our strengths and as I mentioned earlier, we are fortunate enough to have many players who are versatile enough to play in more than one position admirably (RVP,Song, Arteta,Wilshere,Oxlade) Our already fearsome attack, but with a sprinkling of the Milan solidity will certainly help us win a few titles and put a smile on all Gooners’ faces. This is my first attempt at writing a post about the team that I love and I hope you all will certainly share your views on it.


Fundamentals of Football

June 29, 2012

I have decided to write this piece in a bid to react to what really makes a good football player (Reactionary to “is this the time to sell Walcott?”) particularly when it comes to delivering in the required playing position. I believe the knowledge of the facts of an issue will result in better formulation of opinions.

The fundamentals of football relates to the following:

1. The Player

2. The Team

3. The Formation

4. The Positions

So we will consider the fundamentals of football within the spectrum of these four key aspects

1. The Player

There are basic requirements needed for an individual to qualify as a football player.

a. Ball Control: Ball control is primarily the ability to position a ball such that it favours the overall objective of getting a goal. In other words, to get a goal, a player must be able to receive a pass, make a pass and shoot at goal. Basic skills needed here are Foot Control of Ball, Chesting, Heading (Nodding), Kicking (Shooting), and Movement (Running, Jumping, and Sweeping)

b. Ball Possession: In the event where the opposition has the ball, a player is required to possess the basic ability:  technical or physical or both to dispossess the opponent of the ball for the purpose of gaining or regaining possession. For example Marking and Tackling

c. Team Play: when it is a game, it only means there is more than one. There is no such game with only one person involved. At least there must be the player and the coach, and in this discourse, there are more than one and thus the necessity for Team play.

d. Knowledge of the rules.

2. The Team

The Team that will play football and win will have the following basic requirements

a. Desire to win: Since football is a game, it is just thus a fact that if there is no desire to win, there is no need to play. Of course somebody will say you can play for pleasure, but I dare ask ‘is there any pleasure in Loosing?’ Desire to win or lose will be betrayed by Urgency, Grit, Determination, Believe etc.

b. Tactics: There must be the development of a tactic to overcome the opposition.

c. Tactical discipline: The ability to see out a game according to tactics must be present in a team

d. Knowledge of the rules.

3. The formation

The fundamental requirements of any formation are

a. Departments: Ranging from Defense, to Mid-field, to Attack, A formation must possess those three. Each of these three may be sub-divided to accommodate details (Positions).

b. Balance: To assist in the overall objective of overcoming the opposition, the team must be able to achieve result without any department faltering.

4. The Positions

Each Position in The Department, in The Formation and in The Team defines qualities that are fundamental to The Player. Therefore, taking the fundamentals required from a player and defined in the position the player must play are here listed

a. Defense: Stamina, Tackling, Vision, Swiftness, Link-up play, Game Reader

b. Mid-field: Stamina, Tackling, Vision, Swiftness, Link-up play, Hold-up play, Distribution, Dribbling, Game Reader.

c. Attack: Stamina, Tackling, Vision, Swiftness, Dribbling, Finishing,

Considering these fundamentals, to succeed at the top top level like Arsene will normally say, A player must possess all the afore mentioned qualities in degrees that qualifies him as a professional and additional qualities that distinguishes him for the position, for the formation, for the team and also not forgetting for the opposition. In reacting to if Theo Walcott is a necessity or a player Arsenal should do away with, I think we need to consider what Theo has that is peculiar to him. Speed, Penetrating run, Accurate pin-pointed cross-in (Grounder or Lofted), and lately superb finishing, I think he is a player suitable for teams playing Highline or generally lack tactical and positional awareness. Also, considering he is 23 years old, I think it is only logical to allow him develop other innate skills that a player can only get as he ages and hope he turns out the kind of player that can show up for any kind of opposition.

I believe with these submission, we can fairly assess a player and determine if he is suitable for Arsenal or not.

Thank you.

Written by Timmy


Is This The Time To Sell Walcott?

June 28, 2012

Let me start by saying, Stewart Robson is a man of courage. I’m not just saying that because I agree mostly with his recent comments deriding Theo Walcott. I sometimes disagree with his opinions during matches and on talksport and Arsenal World. I say it because he is employed by Arsenal, and I’m sure they were not pleased with his outspoken opinion against a current player. There are some franchises that would sack a commentator for something like that, but I’m a big believer in free speech, especially if it’s unpopular, or politically incorrect. I’m proud that Arsenal are confident enough to handle criticism, even from within.

As you can see from the title where I’m headed, let me first admit that I do recognize some positives about Theo. I am not one of the many Walcott haters out there. I really appreciate everyone on our club, and Theo is not a bad player by any stretch. I see that he has improved his game in some areas. He’s a better finisher than before, he doesn’t overshoot the goal as much as he used to, and he has improved on his chips also. He’s also developed a nice little relationship with RVP. That part can’t be underestimated.

I don’t know if we’re going to sign another forward or winger, so i will only consider the squad as it is at the moment, but if we do add up front, it may make this even more relevant. When I look at our team, i just don’t see that much potential for improvement in Theo’s overall game. I think he has a definite ceiling on how much better he can get. Despite his improvement, I don’t see him as a future striker, as has been discussed, and he wishes. I don’t know if he can score from a header, or that he will develop great touch. I’m the kind of person who is very afraid to give up on any raw talent that might come back to haunt us, especially in the EPL. What I am fairly confident of with Theo is, that he is not going to turn out to be a GREAT player. That we won’t be lamenting for years that we let him get away.The skills that he lacks are really not the type that are developed at this point in a players career, even though I admit he may still improve in some areas.

He seems from reports, to be seeking a fairly big raise in salary, and I’m not one who always comments on peoples wages, as you know, I think that’s more the club’s business in general. I just think that his salary as is, seems to be in line with his value to us. I also believe he MIGHT never be worth more in a transfer fee than now. I wouldn’t mind if Chelsea’s interest is real. I don’t feel that would make them stronger, or us weaker. I would take Sturridge over Theo on talent and upside in a minute, except that he seems unhappy on the wing, and is not shy to complain about it. ( Another good thing about Theo is the way he conducts himself as a person, I must say. ) I wish Manchester City were interested, more money, and I’d love to have Adam Johnson instead.

I’m not going by Hodgson or Capello’s opinions either. I just feel that playing the amount of minutes that he did for Arsenal, in our setup, we should be getting more production – plain and simple. I agree with alot of what Robson said, he needs to show more effort tracking back, although he’s not alone in that,  and obviously we all know he lacks some ball skills, which are very hard to learn at this point. So many matches, when defended deep, he can’t create an attack, and just disappears.

Now, one big reason for my position, is that I’m betting big that Gervinho is going to really break out for us next season. He has great skills, pace, moves,  scares defenders, and although he needs to work on his finishing, I believe his biggest problem with that is confidence. Podolski will play on the left side probably most of the time. I also would like to see the Ox get a little more playing time in league matches next season, and if our midfielders are healthy, that position will be crowded, so, it would have to be on the wing. Ryo will probably go out on loan again, but his potential is exciting, and again, a much higher upside. None of this includes possible new signings, and honestly, all the names rumoured around interest me more than Walcott for us. I think we could improve ourselves, and make a profit at the same time. Of course, I wouldn’t mind selling him, and using the proceeds to add on to a big fee for a superstar, but I am realistic.

So I write, with no animosity, that it may be time to sell Theo, shake things up a bit this summer. I would wish him all the best, except against us. Because he’s not a bad kid.

I want him to do well, and mostly, I want us to be better.

Written by jnyc


Robin van Persie – one of the best No. 10’s

June 27, 2012

“Because he[RvP] is one of the best no10’s in the world” – Van Marwijk.

The Dutch national manager Bert van Marwijk opted to play RvP behind the striker, in the no10 position, against Portugal last Sunday. He was desperate to turn things round and for once he gave in to the strong calls in Holland to play Huntelaar, the Bundeslega top scorer, and RvP, the PL top scorer, together up front.

It was a daring decision to put RvP in the no10 position. Holland has a few players who believe it is their god-given right to play there, and can become very disruptive if they are being played elsewhere, or even worse, being placed on the bench. During the last World Cup, the likes of Sneijder and van de Vaart have competed aggressively and publicly over who should play in the position that is simply the Holy Grail for any aspiring Dutch attacking footballer.

When Van Marwijk was challenged during a press conference over the debacle against Portugal – the third game they lost in succession, meaning they had to leave the tournament with nil points, after setting themselves the highest possible target – the journalists were keen to find out why the manager had opted for Robin van Persie in the hole position, at such a crucial game. Van Marwijk’s answer was typically short and to the point: “Because he is one of the best no10’s in the world”.

Robin van Persie might have been chosen for the no10 position by the manager, but that does not mean anything; so it appeared. He got no service whatsoever, despite making himself available continuously. Van Marwijk also played Sneijder (left midfield) and vd Vaart (central midfield) and it was simply asking for trouble. The Dutch team had no shape, except for the first twenty minutes or so, and there was hardly any cooperation, desire to make the runs, to close down, or to simply work for each other.

An utter disgrace and I feel truly sorry for the likes of Van Bommel and Matthijsen who now lost out on their last chance to win a major tournament with their national team. Van Bommel has been the physical and mental glue for the Dutch national team in the last few years, but he simply could not drive the team forward anymore; with very dire consequences.

I am sure we will hear more on this in the next few weeks, but I wonder what our Boy Wonder is thinking about it all at the moment. I reckon he will be gutted as this was a golden opportunity for the Dutch team, and him, to win a major trophy. The Dutch will have to rebuild now and it could take another twenty years before they reach a final of a major tournament again.

What is an exciting thought, though, is whether Robin van Persie is indeed one of the best no10’s in the world.

Dennis Bergkamp has said on a few occasions that the ‘Shadow Striker’ position would be ideal for RvP. It looks like Giroud has been bought by Arsenal, and he would be a welcome addition to the earlier purchase of Podolski. And if so, two new strikers of good quality will have been added to the squad. They are the sort of players who should fit in straightaway and can make a real difference.

Apparently, Arsène believes Podolksi, Giroud and RvP can play together up front, and as per LB’s post a few days ago, this would leave us with an embarrassment of riches in our attacking positions. How is Arsene going to fit in the likes of RvP, Podolski, Giroud, Theo, Arshavin, Gervinho, Chamakh, Park, Vela, Ryo, Campbell, and the Ox?

So, there can be no doubt that a number of the above players will be sold or loaned out before the end of the transfer window.

For a long time, I was convinced that RvP was going to stay at Arsenal. But the lack of clarity after his ‘informal’ meeting with Arsene and Gazidis before the Euros, has made me doubt again my earlier optimism.

Clearly, the meeting between them is, and might always be, a black box for us. But if we take the premise that RvP indeed loves Arsenal, and would like to stay if he feels the club has done enough in the transfer window this summer to be a serious competitor for the title and Champions League, would the offer to Robin to play in the Nr10 position not be a major selling point – the icing on the cake? I think it would.

And with him moving into the hole position, Arsenal need two proven strikers for the 50+ games we will play, in order to cover adequately for suspensions and injuries. The likes of Park and Chamakh have not convinced since they joined us and Theo, Vela and Campbell are probably not (yet) of the quality required to really make the top striker position a great success next season.

It seems conceivable that RvP will have asked for proven quality additions, and in Podolski and Giroud Arsenal have just done that.

Of course, there is still a good chance that Arsenal have simply been more pro-active this summer and that Giroud and the Pod are direct replacements for RvP and Chamakh, but I don’t want to think like that, yet.

The thing is, RvP did not just become our top goal scorer last season, but as a captain he has also injected a new spirit; a new culture into the team. This would be very hard to replace and I just cannot imagine Arsene taking it lightly. If RvP leaves we would be in another transitional year again, and we would run the serious risk of becoming a club in perpetual transition. I believe Wenger is a very ambitious man and is fully aware he needs to start holding on to his top players, if he ever is going to win something again. I also feel the club has entered a new (financial) era now.

That’s why I believe RvP will not (be allowed to) go this summer, even if he does not sign a new contract. Even the BoD will realise that cashing in on RvP will not be a wise decision this time round.

It seems to me very likely that RvP will be played in the shadow striker position next season. It will be interesting to see whether Arsenal will play 4-2-1-3 again or whether we go for 4-4-2 next season.

The latter formation might suit RvP more as I don’t think he is a natural playmaker, with great overview and in possession of an array of deadly through-ball skills. He is neither a Dennis Bergkamp type of player, nor a Cesc Fabregas type, and I think he will be a nr10 player ala Rooney at Manchester United (in terms of type of player), but only better of course LOL!

He would be absolutely deadly in that position and we would significantly improve our tally of goals from outside the box next season. He would also be closer to the midfield and therefore better able to captain his team.

I would love to see RvP in the nr10 position and I believe Van Marwijk is a top quality manager, who has a close relationship with our captain. If he thinks RvP is one of the best no10’s in the world, then I am not going to disagree with him.

And I think it is all part of a master plan by Wenger to keep our Boy Wonder happy and hungry at our beloved Arsenal next season.

TotalArsenal.


Where were you when ….. ?

June 26, 2012

Johnny Jensen scored?  No, not the one-off on that sunny afternoon defeat to QPR, the one which prompted the ” I was there was Jensen scored”  t-shirts. No, I am talking about the one which led to our signing Mr Jensen, that phenomenal shot which won Denmark Euro ’92.

It was 20 years ago today (good opening line for a song!) in the sun of Gothenborg when John *Faxe* Jensen marmelised the ball for the first goal during the Euro ’92 Final against Germany. It was the first time I had noticed the curly haired battler in the tournament; prior to that he was just a member of a Danish team who were lucky to be at the tournament let alone in the Final. And I,like many thousand of Gooner’s thought – “Hey, here is a DM with a dynamite shot who would be great at Highbury”. Next thing we know George Graham has signed him and JJ went onto have a 4 year, 132 game career at THOF.

And what of our free-scoring new Dane, “Faxe” Jensen? Well, the nickname should have been a clue …. Faxe is an extra strong Danish beer . In fact the Brondby stadium he left now has a Faxe Jensen stand, which is testimony to John’s drinking talent!

Joining an Arsenal midfield including the mercurial talent of Rocky Rocastle, Jensen was the water-carrier. A hard working, energetic, give and go player with little pace and little creativity, but a man who would put his body on the line – he was to be the embodiment (pardon the pun) of the new George Graham Arsenal. A dull player in a dull team.

JJ is a regular commentator on Danish television and his goal has been shown countless times during the run-up to the Euro’s. When questioned in ’92  as to what he thought when the ball came to him JJ said ” I just thought, kick the thing as hard as possible in the Arse” – which immediately became another T-shirt slogan.

If ever a goal flattered to deceive, this was it.

Written by BigRaddy

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Roy Has Shown Arsene The Way

June 25, 2012

Watching England’s performances in Euro 2012, and against Italy in particular, got me thinking about the best way of using Theo Walcott.

Seeing the inept James Milner huff and puff to zero effect and lose the ball every time he got it; and watching the useless Ashley Young fail to beat his marker once in the entire game, I started from a position of outright fury.

How could either of those cloggers be selected ahead of the man whose contribution was vital to getting England into the Quarter Finals – our very own Theo Walcott?

I know Theo has his critics, but next time any Arsenal supporter wants to bitch about our flying winger they should bring out the video of England v Italy, June 24th 2012, and watch the performances of Milner and Young.

Any player can have a bad game, but that pair have been clueless throughout the tournament.

Admittedly, they weren’t helped in the last two games by having to play alongside Wayne Rooney, who was as poor as I have ever seen him. In fact, England were worse once Rooney came back from suspension. He played with the energy and touch of a shagged out granny.

Maybe gaining a new head of hair has produced a kind-of reverse Samson effect (the Biblical Samson lost his great strength when his flowing locks were cut off while he slept. I believe GoonerMichael has an alibi).

I started wishing I could speak to Roy Hodgson to say: “Roy, what are you doing? You can see how p*ss poor your wingers are, why haven’t you dropped one and replaced him with Theo?”

But then I imagined what Roy would say in response (once he’d got past “who the bleep are you and what are you doing in my dug-out?”).

I fancied his reply would go like this:

“Look, I’m not stupid. I know that Theo is faster than those clowns, I know he’s more skillful and I know he’s a better finisher. I know he can leave his defender for dead if he gets the right run and I know his ability to provide assists has grown exponentially.

“But here’s the thing.  I want Dumb and Dumber to wear down the opposition first and then, when the defenders’ legs are getting weary and their concentration is beginning to waver, I want Theo to come on and tear them a new one.”

That’s exactly how it panned out against Sweden, with Walcott scoring with an outstanding shot and setting up a goal for Welbeck with a great run to the line and pull back.

And despite my frustration on Theo’s behalf, I can see that there is a point to Hodgson’s approach – and one that Arsene Wenger maybe could learn from.

Many observers have argued that Theo is least effective when facing a defensively set-up team aiming to “not lose” rather than to win. When the bus is parked, there’s very little room for Theo to get round it.

But as space opens up in the later stages of a game, he gets more opportunities.

Next season (assuming he stays – and I sincerely hope he does) I could see Theo featuring primarily as an impact sub. We would start with Podolski and one of Gervinho or Oxlade-Chamberlain in the wide positions, and bring Walcott on with 30 minutes to go.

It shouldn’t be seen as a demotion for Theo – rather a way of maximising his contribution in a very specialist way.

I think he’s as good a wide player as we have in the EPL, and people’s frustration with him reflects the fact that he does a job where he is constantly have to push the envelope – to make goal chances or provide great crosses. Against most EPL opposition you’re never going to be given the freedom to do that at will – you will be thwarted a lot of the time.

But Theo has shown that he can break the shackles on a consistent basis. Using him when the opposition defence is more ragged and disorganised may well be the right way to go.

Mind you, I can’t imagine that being part of Arsène’s pitch to Theo when he tries to get him to extend his contract…

RockyLives


I hate the French but like sizzling hot redheads

June 24, 2012

I need to open with a couple of points of clarification. I hate the French for not beating Spain, and the bit about redheads was only lobbed in to garner hits.

Now I have to admit that due to other commitments, I only watched ten minutes of the France-Spain encounter, however, I was bored rigid. If the Spanish pass, pass, pass, pass, pass game is any way the apex or ultimate variant of the Barca Style, then I want “out” now.

When we at The Arsenal play our intricate little passing triangles with 70% possession, while camped in the final third and the opposition with the bus firmly parked, quite often the most exciting moments of the game are when said oppo. break free and counter.

Back in the day, when DB and TH graced the hallowed green meadow at Highbury, we would power away up field from defending a corner with such electric pace and fluidity that the opposition would be transfixed like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

By all means let’s hog possession, but can’t we do it lower down and save the high line for taking the mick once we are two up after ten minutes.

Look at the times we were undone at home last season, by whom, and playing what system?

What I will now call the “Sparca Style” lacks pace, expansiveness and above all excitement. It has become, to my bright eyes at least, a bus parky variation. Simply, they are parking further up the road.

The only times we get to Ooo and Ahhh during Barca play is when we witness moments of magic from a Messi or an Iniesta. What I’m saying is, would those moments simply be magnified if played at high speed and in wide open spaces.

“This is rubbish” I said to myself while watching my whole ten minutes. It’s like a game of pass the bloomin’ parcel where the host Mum has left the cd playing and buggered off outside for a fag or two.

What I am saying is let’s mix it up. Not long ball, but just remember it’s a long pitch so let’s use it.

Oh, and who I am I kidding, I really do hate the French (I had a wee bet on the soap dodgers to win), and I also do like sizzling hot redheads (although “did like” would be slightly more accurate).

Written by MickyDidIt89


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