Will Arsenal ever become a lean, mean, defending machine again?

Over the last few weeks, we have had in-depth discussions about whether we need to strengthen our midfield this summer, as well as how we should fit in our freshly signed strikers, Giroud and Podolski. Clearly, these are areas we can all get very excited about, but the area we have not been talking about for a while is our 49 PL-goals leaking defence.

Incredibly, seven teams conceded fewer goals in the PL than Arsenal last season: Man City, United, Spuds, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Sunderland, and that is simply not good enough if we want to make the next step up towards winning silverware again. Even if we take into account our bad start – conceding 12 goals in two away games against now relegated Blackburn and last season trophy-less Man United – we still managed to ship 37 goals in 36 games.

Next season, Chelsea will undoubtedly fall back on a Mourinho-style Catanaccio football under Di Matteo and I won’t be surprised if they manage to concede less than 20 goals over the entire season. Man City conceded only 29 goals last season, and their neighbours were not far behind with conceding only 33.

In order to compete for the title, I reckon Arsenal should aim to concede 30 goals or (ideally) less next season. Easier said than done, but how are we going to achieve it?

And will Steve Bould help us to finally get the balance right between beautiful football and defensive tight-fistedness?

Many have said we have failed to defend as a team at times, and that our midfield did not give our defence the necessary protection, especially towards the end of the season. We have also discussed in previous posts how the lack of available FB’s for a long period of time, has hurt us a lot (especially in the first few months of 2012).

Arsenal have also suffered significantly from having a lot of enforced changes to its back four during the season, and the long term injury to Per Mertesacker, just as he started to settle in properly, also meant a serious setback at a crucial time of the season. It effectively meant elimination from two cup competitions – the CL and FA cup – in a less than a week.

Arsenal really struggled to continue its rhythm every time we suffered a major injury to the likes of Arteta, Mertesacker, and Sagna. As long as Arsenal was able to keep the same eleven players fit, we were able to reach a level of consistency on a par with our major competitors, resulting in a run of good results. However, as soon as we suffered one or more injuries we started to lose or draw games we really should have won. It just seemed we were not able to adjust quickly enough to these setbacks, and serious doubts were raised about our strength in depth.

During last season, we only had one period of defensive consistency worthy of reaching a target of 30 goals or less conceded in one PL season. Between 21-03-12 and 21-04-12 Arsenal played seven matches in which we kept five clean sheets and only conceded 3 goals, or 0.4 goals per game:

21-3: Eve – Arsenal: 0-1 Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/LK/KG

24-3: Arsenal – Villa: 3-0 Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/JD/KG-AS

31-3: QPR – Arsenal: 2-1 No Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/LK/KG

8-4: Arsenal – Man C: 1-0 Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/LK/KG

11-4: Wolves – Ars: 0-3 Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/JD/AS

16-4: Arsenal – Wig: 1-2 No Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/JD/AS

21-4: Arsenal – Chel: 0-0 Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/LK/KG

Luckily this period came towards the all important end o the PL season, and although we only managed to score 10 goals in those seven games – 1.43 goals per game, which is well below our season average of 1.95 goals per game – we still managed to get 13 points out of 21.

It is fair to say that our defence saved us at this crucial stage.

However, the next three games – against Stoke, Norwich and West Brom – we almost threw it all away again with shocking defensive performances, conceding 2 goals per game on average, which is five times the conceded goals-per-game tally of the previous seven games:

28-4: Stoke – Arsenal: 1-1 No Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/LK/KG

5-5: Arsenal – Norw: 3-3 No Clean Sheet, Back four: BS-FC/TV/LK/KG (Coquelin replaces Sagna early in the game – the latter is out for the season)

13-5: West B – Ars: 2-3 No Clean Sheet, Back four: CJ/TV/LK/AS

We all know that the season-ending injury to Arteta, early on in the game against Wigan, had a detrimental impact on our defensive shape. However, we still managed to do reasonably well in terms of conceding goals in the games against Wigan, Chelsea and Stoke: conceding three goals in three games – one per game – is not totally unacceptable. The subsequent loss of Sagna in the penultimate game, against Norwich, did appear to be too much for us though, as our defence was all over the place in the last two games. I am sure that fatigue had started to play a part and we also lacked the experience to see games out calmly and professionally when it really mattered, and especially the latter is a concern for us.

We got there in the end by the skin of our teeth.

It is hard to pull definitive conclusions from our defensive performances in the last 10 games, but it looks like Arsenal’s back four of Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny and Gibbs were getting their act together towards the end of the season, and we can all draw courage from this.

The back-up defenders Djourou (CB) and Santos (LB) – the latter might argue he actually is our first choice LB – also seemed to have performed well.

Jenkinson was injured for large parts of the season, so it is hard to say whether he is an adequate replacement for Sagna. This could be an area of concern, as I believe Coquelin’s strengths lay in midfield (central or right side), and Djourou struggled in the LB position at times. This puts us at risk, with Sagna still recovering from injury at the moment.

It is absolutely crucial to keep our first choice defenders together for at least a few seasons, and let them fully gel further as a unit. Other than Sagna, none of the back four have been playing a significant number of games for Arsenal. A good back four needs consistency and experience, in order to form a wall that frightens any opposition, and on which a winning team can be build with confidence and longevity.

And of course there is the case of Mertesacker’s return from long term injury. How will he fit into our defence: should he be first choice CB or back-up? Until recently I have been saying he should be our first choice CB, as he has great organisational skills and reads the game very well, which easily compensates for his occasional lack of mobility. But, having looked at the last ten games in a bit more detail, I am now not so sure anymore, as slowly but steadily Koz and Vermaelen have formed a strong, albeit occasionally erratic, partnership.

And what will happen with the promising talents of Miquel and Bartley: are they ready for more first team action?

It also became very clear that Arteta’s defensive support was duly missed as we did not have a suitable, ready-to-rock, like-for-like replacement for him in the system that we played (with Song being asked to help out as much as possible in the creative/attacking areas of midfield play).

Furthermore, I am happy to keep backing Szczesny as our nr1 goal keeper, but will his inexperience cost us next season, and do we have a good back-up in case of injury or suspension? This remains to be an area of doubt/risk.

Let’s hope Steve Bould will be able to help Arsene to add a bit more steal, confidence and consistency to the our defence/ TEAM defensive play/ formation next season, so that we can reduce our goals conceded to below 30, and increase the number of clean sheets significantly. Let’s hope we finally get the balance right between the Bould and the Beautiful next season!

The big, all-encapsulating question remains, though: do we have enough quality – players, tactics, coaching, etc – in our team now to establish the required defensive performances that will lead us to silverware next season?

I think we do, but I cannot say I am 100% certain about it.

Thanks for reading.

Please note: I am by no means an expert in defensive tactics etc, and would like to invite you to share your views and expertise with us today. In the end, that’s what good blogging is all about.


121 Responses to Will Arsenal ever become a lean, mean, defending machine again?

  1. Bob N7 says:

    Fair analysis…I think we will certainly improve the numbers next season as long as we are not unlucky with injuries. However, I do feel that the most significant change would be to bring in a top DM so that for example in away games Song and DM could provide defensive solidity, in front of the defense. Last season the conversion rate of teams against us was higher than any other. In other words, our opposition were allowed too many gilt-edged chances because we had committed too many players forward. Song, who I think is an excellent DM, played further forward which meant that although say Arteta dropped back to compensate, we didn’t have that dedicated cover. I may well be over simplifying things but I do feel that a radical improvement could be fairly simply achieved.

  2. chas says:

    Nice post, TotAl.

    I think we have the players already for a successful season defensively.
    What’s needed is a better balance between the all-out passing style and knowing how to shut up shop at crucial moments in the game.

    Surely Steve Bould will have some ideas to improve certain areas, as he hinted in his recent interview. He must be able to improve the defence’s positional play, such as full backs never being deeper than centre backs, only one full back forward at a time and a midfielder dropping into the centre of defence when a centre back has committed forward.

  3. barry the gooner says:

    there’s no doubt that the defence needs plenty of coaching as a unit Vermaelen particularly from set pieces is all over the place let’s hope that Bould’s remit is to do just that.

  4. Gooner In Exile says:

    Ahhh a footbally post….well played TA.

    The Art of Defending, for me what we have missed for a number of seasons is the Invisible Wall himself Gilberto, of all the players that left too early he is the one I think the team has missed the most, either to pass on knowledge of how it’s done or to actually do it.

    Arteta gave us some of that back last season, but there is just not enough emphasis placed on individual players taking responsibility for their positions.

    I believe we could track a number of our goals back to losing possession up the pitch, maybe next season we can work on getting it back, up the pitch and to do this we need to have collective responsibility, one player hunting is not enough. If we can’t do this, then quite simply players can’t over commit from the back.

  5. goonerjake says:

    Possibly not.

    Well not in the near future. Wenger prefers a style of play that is more attacking, i believe to be defensively solid not only do you need great defenders you also have to defend as a team.

    I like a good solid defence but i prefer to outscore the oppostion more with an attacking play.

    Never never and never again do i want to go back to the late george years where in my opinion we went too defensive and did not have enough up top.

  6. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Very good analysis Total, thanks.
    I am definately with BobN7 when he says: “a radical improvement could be fairly simply achieved”. I also agree with Chas that we have the personnel, but we certainly need to add organisation and discipline, and hopefully Stevie Bould will add that.
    Another component of a good defensive side is a good attack. Best form of defence… and all that.
    Getting the all important two goal cushion is vital in not requiring us to rely on the attacking qualities of our FB’s. All too often we were left exposed.

  7. fergalburger says:

    For all the T Shirts sold that claimed ‘I saw Gilberto pass forwards’, we need to understand the merit of a player who is more effective without the ball.

    The majority of our goals conceded last term were from three main points of no focus. Losing possession, not covering when possession was lost, inability to clear the ball under pressure.

    Point 3 will be something that Bould can work on if Wenger let’s him. I feel that his ego might stop Bould introducing the row Z theory to defending. When Wenger beat that out of Toure, it is no surprise that his defensive work became more and more shaky. He was no ball player and certainly not calm, yet was asked to calmly play the ball out of defence and find a man, under pressure. He had issues with Gallas sure. But still he weakened as a defender. This is not to say that we do not boot the ball out under pressure. But this choice is only second to ‘can I find a man even with my back to them?’

    In terms of losing possession, we are slack from midfield and the wings. It was not RVP who was losing possession often. It was Song, Walcott, Gervinho, Rosicky, Arsharvin. Out of that list it was only Rosicky who started to chase back on a regular basis and close down. All the others were erratic at best.

    In terms of not covering when possession was lost, as above, the shame of it is that these are good players but not defensively. It could be argued that Song is a good defensive player, but he hardly proved that last season. He got caught time and time again and dawdled back to defend. Yet we started playing to retain possession within 5 seconds of losing it in some games. This was effective depending on the formation.

    It shows how much we depending on the nous of Arteta, but we cannot rely on him alone. We have to sacrifice our style to adapt to the strength of other teams. We did that against City and Chelsea,. I do not understand why we cannot do the same against the lower teams.

    However, all of this is typical Arsenal under Wenger and Graham. W have always conceded calamitous goals. Keystone Cop defending and so on. It never seems to go away. And in my opinion it always stemmed from the midfield.

    To let in less goals, Arsenal need to try and play more games with less possession in the middle of the park. It worked in 2004. Defence to wings, back into midfield, out to wings or through the middle, scoring chance.

    Not that hard when you have many players of consistency and character. But that’s a whole other argument eh?

  8. Rasp says:

    Great comment fb,

    Our play when not in possession has been the problem. Being too clever when in possession and giving the ball away cheaply and then failing to defend as a team and try to regain possession high up the pitch has been our problem. …. swarming as I like to call it, is something Barca do brilliantly. Cutting out the oppositions passing options and forcing them into errors.

    To the onlooker it may appear that our players are lazy when they don’t bust a gut ot get back to defend. In reality all players know they have to preserve their energy at times during a game, but when your back 4 are exposed and outnumbered is not the time.

  9. 26may1989 says:

    Love the post, and fergal’s comment is tip-top too. Wilshere’s return will play a significant role: having him and Arteta at the heart of midfield should help a lot, they are the best we have at not giving the ball away. And hopefully Song will remember that he needs to prioritise screening the defence.

    Poldi wasn’t great at the Euros but one thing he did well was provide cover on the left wing. And Giroud looks like he knows how to retain possession too. But just as with our attacking game, the attacking unit’s contribution to defence is going to be a bit uncertain till these new signings have bedded in.

  10. Leon says:

    Just a note we conceded 4 not 3 goals in that period..2 to qpr 2 to Wigan..but great article

  11. TotAl says:

    Morning to all 🙂

    Thanks for some great comments already today. FG, that is a very fine comment and I agree with most of it.

    Retaining and regaining possession is indeed crucial. I still have good memories about our CL qualification group games last year. Ramsey played a lot closer to Arteta and Song, and although it stifled the creative supply to RvP, Gervinho and Theo a bit, the midfield – as a defensive and dominating unit – performed very well.

    Rasp makes a mention of the need to swarm and that is exactly what Dortmund did to us. We had no other option than to battle with them in midfield, and although it was not the most beautiful football we ever played, we matched them, broke them down in the end and played very well as a defensive unit. Same goes for our two games against Marseille.

    The problem with this approach is, though, that we might not create enough for our attackers upfront, and Ramsey at the time worked his socks off to somehow do both: keep midfield tight and support our attack.

    In the second part of the season, Wenger appeared to have asked Song to support our attack as much as possible, as both Ramsey and Rosicky were not able to provide enough and consistent service to the front-3.

    Obviously, we had no opportunity to make a big change in formation as Arsenal had to somehow keep winning to make up for the loss of points at the start of the season. But I cannot see us continue with 4-3-3 next season, especially as JW is probably not fully available till late Autumn. That’s why I reckon we will play far more often next season 4-5-1 with either Podolski or, most likely, Giroud alone upfront: the latter is a great allround striker, who is comfortable on the ball in tight spaces, and plays very well with his back towards the opposition’s goal. With five in midfield, we can ‘swarm’ better and keep hold of the ball better too. We will also create more chances and score more goals.

  12. TotAl says:

    Leon, good point: I stand corrected. I also said in the post that Djourou struggled filling in on the LB position, but this should have been the RB position.

  13. Rasp says:

    Hi totAl, thanks for a very interesting article that highlights factors many would prefer to turn a blind eye to. Surely it is possible for Arsenal to play beautiful football and be more solid defensively.

    Even Barca can’t be watertight in defence if they want to be expansive going forward, there is always some level of defensive sacrifice. The mechanism has to be developed in the training pitch and honed for future games in post match analysis that must be directed at individuals who fail to play their part – I wonder if we do enough of this?

    It’s no good 3 players closing down if the 4th doesn’t and leaves a gap for an incisive pass. The players have toto react to each other’s movement as much as the opposition.

  14. LB says:

    I can’t wait to see Wilshere and Arteta play in the midfield together. I have always said that I don’t anticipate it working well — if at all, as in my view they both play a far too similar role; but, that said, I never foresaw Van Persie becoming such a potent number 9. So with that in mind I hope I am wrong and Wilshere and Arteta create the excitment that so many on here want to believe will happen.

    Good post as ever TA

  15. TotAl says:

    Hi Rasp 🙂

    I despair sometimes when I see the utterly frivolous posts of for example ‘Lady Arse Gossip’ in the top 10 of Arsenal Newsnow. It seems the majority of (Arsenal) footie fans are far more interested in lofty gossip – of which 99% is, so obviously, without any substance – than to talk about actual football issues. 😦

    Totally agree on the whole team joining in when closing down. Hopefully we see a step improvement next season.

    Out for a while again, catch you all later.

  16. Rasp in truth what Barca do well is leave just enough back to pick up the “hoof it out of here” clearances from the oppositions defence, because they attack with so many bodies all carrying a threat the opposition tends to track the runs. But also how many teams actually try and hoof it clear when they play Barca? Teams in the Spanish league try and play football as do most teams in the CL. Swansea exercised their high press on us very well and it caused us problems, but how many other teams did they cause quite so many problems, probably not many as the ball is moved forward quicker, longer and higher. 3/4 men shutting cannot nick a hoof up field.

    I feel sometimes with us that if Sagna or Gibbs are going forward the opposition take the opportunity to cheat on them and not track because they don’t expect them to provide any more threat than the bodies already there because their defence is setup nice and solid. That way when the hoof comes it is often us left 2v2, or 3v3 at the back which is a dangerous game to play. This is why i say we need on occasion to mix it up, with the cross from deep, which if the right centre forward is in the box would represent a threat that the opposition might start taking more note of.

    As you say though winning back possession is the most important and everyone needs to be on the same wavelength as to what s required of them. Either all drop back and form solid lines, or all high press, we can’t have some doing one and some doing the other.

  17. Rasp says:

    Hi LB, I’m hoping that you will be pleasantly reassured and AW has it in mind to try the JackArt combo. I think Arteta will be able to dovetail better with JW than with Ramsey last season. In all the talk of midfielders, Aaron seems to be the forgotten man in all this and will surely be relegated to the bench if we sign Paulinho or similar.

  18. Rasp says:

    Hi GiE, sorry, I must be a bit slow, what are you actually saying in your first para – we should leave players back/we shouldn’t leave players back? I’m all for the ‘fluidity of midfield model’ but it relies on the midfielders being alert to each other’s postioning and taking the responsibilty individually to cover when we overcommit to attack.

    As I’ve said many times, when we go for the slow methodical build up, we create our own problems by slowly compressing our midfield in their half and allowing them to get 10 men behind the ball. The result is that when we lose possession we get hit by the swift counter. We need to use the width of the pitch more and also get the ball forward more quickly. For me, Moses would be a great replacement for Theo to give us width, direct attacking play and a goial threat.

  19. Sorry Rasp i wasn’t being clear.

    Barca probably leave three back max (2 CBs and Busquets), which is similar to us. Where they differ is that everyone going forward carries a significant threat for the opposition to be concerned about, and therefore track, I think thats the biggest difference between us and Barca.

  20. Rasp says:

    OK, that makes sense. They have greater quality throughout the team. If the opposition know you carry a significant threat across the pitch they are likely to be less expansive themselves I suppose and then it is down to the team with the talent to find a way of unlocking obdurate defences – that’s why we need on or two flair players but of equal importance those who stick to their role to give others the freedom.

  21. fergalburger says:

    I would go so far as to say that great defensive play can be beautiful football. If I were a Chelsea fan, I would not complain one bit about how they won the CL. Nor if I were a Dortmund fan, would I complain that enterprise and taking chances was the way forward. Manchester United, for all their faults are amazing at matching and beating most teams at their own game.

    We have some decent players who have not fully displayed their range. Invite them to defend hard and work the system. Then play expansive and flowing football based on where team members are positioned in the offensive phase. If Walcott is breaking and nobody is ahead, stop immediately and pass and move.

    Spain used their goalkeeper to draw out an opposition number 9 and create space for Xavi to orchestrate. This would be ideal for JW and also Arteta who can play first time. Song however, cannot. So we choose our moments and who dictates the offensive phase and try not to believe we are Ajax or Barca. We are Arsenal and can make the blend of what we need be good enough.

    On another note, something else worth exploring is how our offensive formation works to support our players’ strengths during a goal scoring chance. So that crossing to nobody is a thing of the past. Or tippy tappy across the 18 yard box to create space for players like Song or Gervinho who physically cannot shape themselves properly to welly it also is consigned to the trash.

    This is going to make me sound even more like a prick but I once had the pleasure of a post CL game pizza with Amy Lawrence, Phillipe Auclair and Liam Brady. It was surreal and when I got over myself, I realised that I had things to contribute. For example, I suggested that at his peak, Thierry Henry had players around him who would create a horseshoe shape of options to act like outlets. So if Henry broke on the inside left channel, Pires would sprint 20 yards ahead of him and be the most forward player. But then Bergkamp/Ljungberg would get in the hole and Wiltord or Parlour would take centre midfield. But when Parlour or Ljungberg broke on the right, the formation was completely different so Pires would take Bergkamp’s position and Bergkamp would usually fall inside-right for a cut back. Pires would be the no 9 waiting to shoot and Henry would drag defenders away from the box to open the space up.

    It was completely unpredictable for the opposition but it required talented players (except Wiltord ahem), playing in a system where they knew how to provide outlets left and right from which ever direction they were running. The overlap became some kind of creative slalom to stay onside and yank a rigid back four into mayhem.

    It worked so many times and they were exceptional players but what they did was know each other’s game inside out so they could provide offensive outlets at all junctures. Vieira was there to supplement all of them and like a metronome dictate the play left or right, or drive through the middle when Bergkamp found himself playing number 4.

    And Gilberto is the classic ‘don’t know what you got til it’s gone’ player. He shielded and filtered and distributed like some junior school science lesson.

    Anyway, they kind of agreed and then went away and thought about it and got back in touch and definitely agreed which was nice.

    So in short, Wilshere can play a Xavi position and Arteta can be a Xavi Alonso. The challenge will be to see if Giroud and Podolski can produce the nous of Bergkamp and Henry by inviting empty channels for pace (Podolski) and over laps for crosses (Giroud), as well as back up to sweep up loose chances in the box.

    Our new style has to be attacking the box in numbers but with more braun and risk in shooting and heading. We need to use these players to bring tiki-taki to an end.

    Remember Cole’s goal against Aston Villa way back when? We can do that again by playing less in the middle of the park.

    That’s what I am talking (way too long) about! (sorry if this doesn’t make sense, I was hurrying believe it or not)

  22. LB says:

    Hi Rasp

    If Arsenal signed a new creative midfielder I would expect Ramsey to go out on loan.

    Having Rosicky, Ramsey, Diaby and as many seem to think Wilshere as possible attacking, creative midfielders I cannot see another midfielder arriving.

    Unless, I suppose Rosicky gets bought but that is a long shot as he is unlikely to find a club that are willing to match his current wages.

  23. LB says:

    The bit that everyone forgets about Gilberto is that when he came back from his injury, I mean the last time in the season before he left — he was pants, that’s to say really slow and out of step with the game.

    I say this reluctantly as there was no greater admirer of the Brazilian Invisible Wall in his pomp.

  24. JM says:

    I am still sticking with the 3-4-1-2 formation where our best 3 CBs start together on the pitch, in front of our GK. (Playing our the three of them regularly also helps with developing & improving competitive matches telepathy)

    —————- Szczesny —————-
    ————– Mertesacker ————–
    —–Koscielny ——– Vermaelen—–
    – Sagna ————————- Gibbs –
    ———–Song —— Arteta ———–
    ———- Rosicky/Podolski ————
    — Giroud —- Podolski/Gervinho —

    (* RvP not included due to LIMBO )

    (1) Mertesacker – CB taking the sweeper/libero role in defensive cohesiveness, organisation and covering the 2nd ball into our defensive areas.

    (2) Koscielny & Vermaelen (Djourou & Miquel/Bartley) – 2xCBs taking the stopper role in attacking the 1st ball into our defensive 3rd/penalty area and at the same time marking out the opponents’ centre forwards and/or attacking midfielder with the help of from our centre midfielders (Song & Arteta). Move across to cover RWB & LWB when the wingback(s) push forward.

    (3) Sagna/Jenkinson & Gibbs/Santos – Wingbacks providing the width in defence/attack running up and down the touchline.

    (4) Song & Arteta (Coquelin, Wilshere, Ramsey & Diaby) – Our engine room in centre midfield

    (5) Rosicky/Podolski (AoC/Lansbury) – Our attacking midfielder/shadow striker – the link-man b/w midfield & attack. Given freedom to roam in opponent’s defensive 3rd/ in penalty area.

    (6) Giroud & Podolski (Gervinho/Miyaichi & Walcott/Park/Chamakh) – Our 2x forwards, with license to attack goal from centre/wide areas against opponents’ CBs/FBs, link up with our wingbacks & midfielders.

    (7) In dissecting the 3-4-1-2 formation,
    (i) the (3-4) would mean we could have 7 players defending our half when our opponents attack.
    (ii) the (4-1) would mean we could have 5 players in midfield (2xWBs, 2xCMs & 1xAM/SS) at any given point of time in transition b/w defence/attack.
    (iii) the (1-2) would mean at least 3 players could be taking on our opponents DMs/CBs in the middle, and the formation could shape into a 3-2-3-2 when our WBs move up in attack to raid our opponents FBs. We would still have a (3-2) or (3xCBs – with the 2 stoppers able to position & track the flanks which the WBs have vacated, & 2xCMs) covering the defence and around the transition area in midfield.

    (8) Lastly, if in case any 1/3 of our starting CBs suffer an injury during match, no worries, we still have the other 2 CBs in place and we can either
    (a) switch formation to a back-4, while subbing in another midfielder/striker -> 4-3-3/ 4-2-1-3/4-2-3-1 formation or
    (b) Sub in another CB (e.g. Djourou) and still maintain 3x CBs or (c) move Song/Arteta into the sweeper role a.k.a. what De Rossi did for Italy, while subbing in another midfielder (e.g. Wilshere/Coquelin) into CM.

    Arsenal F.C. (League winning defensive men (6 men inc. GK)
    (Which team is the best? In past 15yrs)

    Lukic(GK), Dixon(RB), Winterburn(LB), Adams(CB), Bould(CB), O’Leary(CB)

    Seaman(GK), Dixon(RB), Winterburn(LB), Adams(CB), Bould(CB), Keown(CB – best 6th man)

    Seaman(GK), Dixon(RB), Winterburn(LB), O’Leary(CB), Bould(CB), Adams(CB)

    Seaman(GK), Lauren(RB), Cole(LB), Campbell(CB), Keown(CB), Adams(CB – best 6th man/Cpt)

    Lehmann(GK), Lauren(RB), Cole(LB), Campbell(CB), Toure(CB), Keown(CB – best 6th man)

  25. LB from memory that was after quite a long lay off and he couldn’t get back in the team because of the job Flamini was doing in there so couldn’t get his match fitness back.

    I think with a consistent run we could have got him back to his best….but unfortunately we will never know.

    I miss him though….he was very much the team player, and his defensive skills meant that our fullbacks could go on endless raids without fear of reprisal at the back.

  26. @TA

    “do we have enough quality – players, tactics, coaching, etc – in our team now to establish the required defensive performances that will lead us to silverware next season?”

    Simple Answer : Yes we do , BARRING INJURIES ! And I am not talking about players injured for 1-2 weeks, I am talking about the mysterious long season ending ones which atleast one of our players suffer from every season, that needs to stop. Perhaps, a bit of change in the training regime might toughen the players up 🙂

  27. Proper George Graham Defending


  28. eric the half a bee says:

  29. eric the half a bee says:

  30. LB says:


    I agree with your memory’s version of the Gilberto events. He did in fairness have quite a few occasions to play during what can be described as Flamini’s purple patch but my heart sank a little more during every match he played as I slowly realised he would never be the same.

  31. TotAl says:

    Fergalburger, wrote:

    “Our new style has to be attacking the box in numbers but with more braun and risk in shooting and heading. We need to use these players to bring tiki-taki to an end.”

    You want us to be like MU over the last few years, right?

    I don’t think that is going to happen as long as Arsene is in charge. In fact, Spain’s tiki-taka dominance during the Euros showed once again what the future of football looks like. It’s a superior system that has outgrown what has been before

    I fully expect Liverpool to go down this way and Arsenal will get back to it as well.

    Could we be a bit more direct at times? Yes!
    Do we need our midfielders to be more lethal? Yes!
    Do we need more men in the box at the crucial moment? Yes!

    But we won’t give up our possession/passing football, and I don’t think we should. It would put us back years and we might not catch up for a long time.

    “If I were a Chelsea fan, I would not complain one bit about how they won the CL.” Well, I would be deeply ashamed.

  32. LB says:

    Sorry to poke my nose in but somehow I think I could find a way of living with that shame.

  33. TotAl says:

    What the world be without romantics, LB?!

  34. fergalburger says:

    Chelsea earned it though. Look at how they handled Barcelona. It was great defending. Especially after the whole Terry debacle (don’t say ‘which one?’).

    Anyway, I agree with the above in terms of possession football. We will never give it up and nor should we. But to adapt and revert to a 2004/5 model at times wouldn’t do us any harm.

  35. TotAl says:

    Agreed x2, FG.

    Great video Chas. A lot of Arshavin in there as well!

  36. Rasp says:

    Wow chas, that video has broken my heart 😦

    Where did it all go wrong, why did we stop playing like that? If we could score just one or two goals a season at that pace with that quality I’d be happy. The players never broke stride as they received and passed the ball for most of those goals.

  37. chas says:

    TA & FB,
    I was just wondering why we had to go back to Cashley for a counter-attacking breakaway goal. 🙂

  38. TT says:

    Thanks for that JM. Wow, RvP hair is so gray now. The recent events must have taken their toll 🙂 Love the photo of Bentdner.

  39. TotAl says:

    Cheers JM, always good to see the boys. Bendtner looks very happy! 😉

    As I said to you a few weeks, I really like your 3-4-1-2 line-up. The only problem might be that you are expecting a hell of a lot from Sagna and Gibbs in terms of wing-play – this formation might lack width/is too narrow.

  40. chas says:

    Maybe we changed our game to suit Brave Sir Robin, who isn’t blessed with the most pace?

  41. Rasp says:

    Maybe chas …. also, why so many pics of wantaway Robin on the Arsenal site in your link, I can’t see the logic?

  42. TotAl says:

    Chas, Rasp, I believe we have missed JW and Diaby last season for these sort of quick breaks. The good news is they should be back in the coming season.

    And let’s not forget this Picasso-on-the-pitch:

  43. TotAl says:

    The calm of Bendtner, the quick thinking of Wilshere, the eloquent half-circle of Cesc and the pass right through the Barca midfield to you know who, and a great finish by Arshavin –> football at its very, very best.

  44. chas says:

    This’ll break your heart, too, Rasper…..
    Some used to moan about Bobby not tracking back, but he certainly used to get on his bike when we won back possession.

    I hope you’re right about Lil’ Jack Diaby. 🙂

    Oooops, I just realised this post is about defending!!!!!

  45. chas says:

    Haha, just looked at the training pics.

    Brave Sir Robin hasn’t touched up his grey in a while, unless the grey is the result of his reading the responses to his ‘love you guys’ message.
    I presume he’s in a lot of them, Rasp, to prove that he’s come back and is training even if he is flashing his arse at the highest bidder.

    Bendy looks happy to be back in photo 17. 🙂

  46. TotAl says:

    Lovely stuff Chas! 🙂

  47. TotAl says:

    Chas, I think he might be growing the grey hairs to go better with the Juve team/shirt. They like them looking old over there. 🙂

  48. Red Arse says:

    Hi TA, 🙂

    I knew from the first line that you were the author of today’s Post.

    It is evident that you put a lot of forethought into your writing and, even tho’ you sometimes produce the footballing equivalent of War and Peace, I cannot help but love reading every coherent line because of your transparently guileless love and knowledge of the game in general, and how its intricacies and methodology directly apply to Arsenal!

    Another goodie! 🙂

  49. chas says:

    Did you like Eric the Half a Bee @ 2:57?
    It was in response to your 5:32 yesterday. 🙂

    Here’s a couple of defending vids for balance…

  50. chas says:

    Too many grey hairs on show and they might realise he’s knocking on 30 and nearly over the hill. 🙂

  51. JM says:

    @ TotAl, 3:46 pm

    (1) Sagna (@100%) should be our fittest/most reliable defender on his day, likewise Jenkinson could also do the marauding role @RWB. Even if Coquelin is played there, he could function properly in wide defend/midfield role. Similar to Gibbs & Santos @LWB where the two could rotate b/w games that are too close to each other (e.g. 3 games in a week etc)

    (2) On paper/ static display, 3-4-1-2 does seemed narrow, esp. in attack. That is where we could have 2x dynamic CFs (A Giroud/Chamakh & Gervinho/Walcott combo), where 1xCF plays as a wide forward cutting in from either flanks, while the other 1xCF plays more centrally and could drop back or move wide to draw out opponents’ CB. Then our AM/SS (esp. if Podolski plays here) comes up from behind to attack our opponent’s goal.

    ——- Podolski (“ghost” into the area) ——-
    <= Giroud (drags CB away) (drags CB away) Giroud =>

    while on either side, whoever WB would also lend support when pushed up. Similar to the case of our CMs (Song & Arteta) who push further up into our opponent’s defensive 3rd. We should be still defensively alright because we still have at least the 3 CBs (where either Koscielny or Vermaelen could also cover our right/left flanks respectively, thus still leaving 2 CBs in the middle)

    Mertesacker (move up to partner CB)
    (either CBs could cover flanks)

    —- Song —- Arteta — (CMs could push up when attack)
    || ||
    v v
    Sagna — Podolski —- Gibbs (WBs in support attack)
    v (AM/SS “ghost” into penalty area)

    Formation 3-4-1-2 changed to a 3-2-3-2 in attack.

    With 5 to 7 players in an attack mode; and at least 7 players to fall back in a defence mode.


    Re: RvP getting ready to mix it up with the original “Silver Fox”/”White Feather” @Juventus -> Fabrizio Ravanelli (Heard he was in some coaching appt. with Juventus currently)

  52. Red Arse says:

    Hi Chas, 🙂 and thanks for the Eric vid. 🙂

    I try not to keep complimenting you on the wonderful ease with which you pull appropriate and very funny stuff out of the aether, in case it embarrasses you. I wish I had your ability!! 🙂

  53. Gooner In Exile says:

    Looking at those pics I realise Evonne may be right, we need some ugly bruisers in there they all look a bit too nice!

  54. Podge says:

    Continuity is the one thing we have lacked at the back for the last 4 years. We don’t know our back 4 for next season Sagna TV LK Gibbs or Sagna PM TV Gibbs or Sagna LK PM Gibbs or is Santos first choice left back? Our success next season depends on a settled back 4 more than Van Persie staying or a new DM(we just don’t need another, waste of money)

    Needing to establish a first choice back 4 so much makes me wonder if a new defensive signing would help or hinder the team.

  55. Red Arse says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the comments today, and found myself wondering at the obvious insatiable enthusiasm each of you brought to discussing the tactical nuances and justifications for 4:4:2 or 3:5:2 or 4:2:3:1, or whatever combinations of numerical strategies add up to 10. 🙂

    Now, although I am slightly conversant with mathematics, I am always struck by the limitations of the combinations, and therefore their efficacies, which probably speaks more to my cerebral inadequacies than I would like to admit to.

    You see, here’s the thing, or the ‘thang’, if you are from the southern States, it would appear to me that;

    — Every team coach knows these formations as well as any other coach.
    — Every team would have ‘tried out’ these set ups
    — Every successful team having alighted on a formation that brought them that success, would stick with it — until it doesn’t — which implies the ‘best’ set up is not immutable, otherwise the ‘best’ team would win everything for perpetuity.

    I could go on but do not want to bore you.

    So there, I have laid bare the fundamental flaw in my understanding.
    You see, deep down, I think it is incontrovertible that the quality of the players dictates success.

    The tactics at the top level of premiership football are just a template that showcases and enhances the chances of excellent players winning the majority of their games.
    That surely is borne out by our frustrations about teams like Citeh and the Chavs ‘buying’ titles by buying the best players available.

    At the ‘lower level’ of premiership football, tactics are an attempt to even out the disparities in the quality of players available to them, and, at best, are a desperate attempt to ‘fluke’ a win or hang in by stifling the opposition.

    OK — now it’s your turn to show me the error of my ways but remember, I am a fragile flower with a limited intellect, so treat me gently ——- as I always say to the Glicster!! 🙂


    Hi TA.

    Experience is the key. Over the last few years we have played many guys at the back who have either been too young or lacked premeirship experience. This leads to mistakes and hence goals conceded.

    I am of the firm belief that last season Utd were crap in europe because of inexperience at the back and Chelsea won the bloddy thing because they had experience at the back in abundence. Forget about formations and all this tactical stuff, its all about players. De mateo and that other guy they had, cant remember his name, looks a bit like a Ghoul, got them to european cup finals. Tactical genius?, i think not.

    The full back area is vital to us this season. If Gibbs and Jenkinson can stay fit and reach a high level it could be the diference between coming third and winning the thing. Ime hoping for a big season from these boys.


    Just remebered “Avram the Ghoul Grant”. if hes a better tactician than Arsene Wenger then i am the sole decendent of Genghis Khan and claim the throne of all Mongals.

  58. 26may1989 says:

    @Red Arse 5.16pm

    Ok, first things first: I don’t claim to be a tactical genius, one of the reasons I like AA is the number of regulars who have an astute understanding of the reality of the game.

    But I’d still like to hazard a guess at why Red Arse’s interesting comment nonetheless doesn’t tell the whole story.

    Quality can win out, City are the best evidence of that. But tactics can dominate over quality. Eg, Forest’s amazing achievements in the 80s. Or Greece winning the European Championship. Or (let’s be honest) George Graham’s Arsenal winning trophies in any year other than 1991. Or the more or less same group of Norwich players climbing from League One to PL respectability. Or Chelsea overcoming both Barca and Bayern last season.

    Tactical nous can win trophies almost on its own. Tactical nous plus quality (per City) ought to win at a canter. Which is why I’m amazed at how difficult City made it last season. They had everything yet almost chucked it all away.

  59. Herb'sArmy says:

    Thanks Total, hello everyone.
    It is definitely an area of concern, one that Kelsey has mentioned on numerous occasions.
    A settled back-line is essential, although with Sagna injured we’re a bit vulnerable on the the right. Vermaelen and Song (if he is deployed in the DM role), need to be far more disciplined in their defensive duties.
    Having said that, Bouldy has had the best of both worlds in working with the defensive drills of George Graham, and the more expansive style of Arsene Wenger, which can only be a positive.
    I think his promotion is good news for us all, and we’ll see the benefits this season.

  60. Hi all

    I’m so pleased that TotAl wrote this post as I’d started writing one about our defensive frailties as a team but hadn’t had time to finish it. I will go back and read the comments before I post mine 🙂

    I do agree with 26 that City should have won at a canter as they seemed to have all the personnel in place to do so but football is a funny old game.

    Hello Herb – how are you?

  61. glic says:

    Great post TotAl
    Big improvements needed at back, it`s where we should build from, we have to be hard to beat. Someone may know, but how many teams have won the league with a leaky defence ( 40+ goals ) ?.

    What happened to kelsey`s dentist poem last night ?.
    After rasp`s condescending manner @ 1:33pm yesterday, is it a coincidence ?. 😉

  62. Herb'sArmy says:

    Hi Peaches, ok thanks, can’t wait for the new season!
    Great news about your daughter the other night, with a supporting cast that included Paul Simon. You must be chuffed to bits!


    26, Redders is spot on that its predominantly about players.

    Forest and Arsenal 89 didnt win leagues because of tactics, they won because of players.

    The big corelation about winning things, certainly in the modern game is money and trophies. Those clubs with the biggest wallets tend to buy the best players so they win things.

    Tactics are for weaker teams, to be employed to pull of off shock victorys in there repective leagues or to try and win knock out tournements. Teams that win leagues tend to have the best players.

  64. RockyLives says:

    Thanks for a very thoughtful piece TA.

    One thing that struck me from it was the presence of Djourou at the heart of our defence during several of the games in our “good” spell of defensive solidity.

    I feel JD has been given a rough ride by the fans but, as back up to TV, LK and BFG, he is a really good option. Most of his bad games have come when he has been played out of position at RB. Not many CBs make good FBs (look how poor TV5 was when played at LB – a position he has apparently filled in the past).

    I remember JD having Drogba completely in his pocket when we beat the Chavs at our place a couple of season ago and it’s galling that he is another of the players who is routinely written off by some fans.

  65. glic says:

    The way the Chavs are spending, I will be happy with Top 4 again untill FFP bites their Arse hard. They`ve nicked Micky`s Oscar, ( the player, not his boy ! ). All that scouting for nothing !.

  66. Herb'sArmy says:

    Hi Terry,
    I know you like your figures, and you’re right about clubs with the best players winning titles. There was an interesting article from ‘Arsenal Times’ yesterday saying that our wage-bill in 2004 was £64m which included two players on £100,000+ a week. Last season our wage-bill was £134m and not a single player on £100,000 a week, whereas Chelsea and MU have between 5-7.
    Hi Rocky – Djourou didn’t do us or himself any favours when he injured Wilshere in the England – Switzerland game last summer.


    Hi Herb, thats an interesting stat. Were the 2 players Henry and Campbell?

    Cornwall, Chelsea are buying young and inexperienced players. Remind you of another Club you know? hahaha. Were gona kick there butt this season.

  68. Herb'sArmy says:

    They mentioned Henry as being one of them, Terry, they didn’t name the other, but given his status at that time, it’s a decent shout.

  69. Gooner In Exile says:

    Herb what is more bizarre is that that 2004 wage bill also had 72 players, in 2005 it dropped to 60ish (from memory).

    But the average salary at the club then was £16k a week the average now is £32k a week.

    If you look at this graph you will see it is PL economy that did this not any particular board level decision

    I’d love to know what the correlation between ticket prices/wages is. Getting historic ticket prices is an arse but someone with a programme collection might be able to go back a few years.

    As for tactics vs players. It’s simple you who are arguing on either side are both right. The trick is having the right tactics for the right players.

    Chelsea’s CL semi final, and final success was as much luck as tactics.

    SF – Messi missed that penalty. An inch and Terry is a figure of hate amongst Chelsea fans for the stupid sending off
    Final – They conceded 1 after Gomez missed how many chances, and Chelsea were forced to press and a moment of Drogba brilliance got them the equaliser. There was still time for more luck with another missed penalty. If RvP was taking that pen last year you’d say goal.

    At no time in either game did they control the match. Fast forward to the way England set up in the Euros, what did we think of their embarrassing exit?

  70. TotAl says:

    Evening all and hi to Herb, GLiC and the Peach! 😀

    JM @4.36 you are very thorough and I like your explanations! 🙂

    RA: ‘the football equivalent of War & Peace! 😆 –> AA is the home of clinically verbose! 🙂

    Podge, welcome on AA: ‘Needing to establish a first choice back 4 so much makes me wonder if a new defensive signing would help or hinder the team.’

    I agree with your sentiment: we need consistency above anything else. Hopefully we are a bit more lucky with injuries of our back-four next season!

    RA@5.16 Very cheeky. I won’t say much now but at some point in the next few weeks I want to do a post on the coming season in which I want to point out the importance of football nous, tactics, formations against the oilers strategy of spend, spend, spend.

    Terry, cannot agree with you this time. Chelsea got to the final and won it this year because they were unbelievably lucky. If it is all about experience in defence, how come Chelsea finished six in the PL, 25 points behind the winners and only a positive goal difference of 19?

    Terry@8.04: don’t agree again. Why did Inter win everything under Mourinho a couple of years ago, and nothing the year after (when he had left for Madrid). Same players – very good players….

    Hi Rocky, fully agreed on JD doing more than ok as a back-up CB.

  71. Herb'sArmy says:

    Hi GiE,
    from reading the article, it was the 2nd of a three-part analysis of our decline from an ‘Arsenal Times’ perspective. It was pointing out that we vastly over-pay our youngsters who have yet to achieve anything, and refuse to pay our ‘decorated’ players/’stars’ the accepted going-rate which seriously handicaps our ability to compete for the top prizes. But we know this because Ivan Gazidis addressed the issue at the recent AST Q&A meeting.

  72. tomstoned says:

    TotAl great post..see we do agree sometimes,keeping a well run backline…getting Bould in to supervise…well i think we will improve..good thing..but we could take it a step further, to keep a squad together for a number of years are vital to any success..look at Bayern..Dortmund and other clubs who are in a similar situation as us…but here we fail horrible not only do we sell our best players we fail to let the squad grow together..this is never going to be a success…one can bed in a player or maybe two at most..what do we do ??..and this will go on and on as long as The Arsenal are being run as a feeder club..it simply just have to stop..or like Richie and many others we could instead of celebrate the football side of Arsenal..sit down have a beer and be happy to be a top class money making machine for the kronk…you choose !!

    Richie..im sorry for this late reply,but due to my current status *stoned*i guess im forgiven,..
    the barca-Ajax post…im happy that you accept our role as The English version of Ajax and my mentioning barca was simply to make you realize that the ffp is never going to rescue anyone…barca is as im sure you know never going to go bust,barca is more like e national team(Catalunya)and is more or less run by banks…even now at the horrible economic situation in Spain..barca will still be as potent as ever before…
    ffp…im abit taken back at how many people who thinks this will rescue us and the rest of the footballing world..it wont..there are too many loopholes…look at whats happening in russia..?? ffp is over before it gets going…top clubs would if pressured..form their own superleague..and thats it…
    in a way England did that already when they formed the premier league…money will always succeed…if you think otherwise Richie well i cant help you mate…
    capitalism rules the world…not only in sport..

  73. Gooner In Exile says:

    TA I know you mentioned consistency in your post I am one of the lonesome voices who thinks we need to rotate more.

    This probably doesn’t sit well with many but my theory is only for the biggest games should the first choice back 4 (whoever that be) be nailed on to play. Actually same goes all over the pitch. I think we are so badly affected by injuries because there is always a bit of getting to know you.

    Take our opening PL games we could do something like this:

    Sunderland – Sagna Kos TV Gibbs
    Stoke – Sagna BFG TV Gibbs
    Liverpool – Sagna Kos TV Santos
    Southampton – Jenkinson Kos TV Gibbs
    Man City – Sagna Kos TV Gibbs

    And onwards. If say TV suffered an injury it wouldn’t be a drastic change as all the defenders get used to playing together. When the squad only makes sporadic appearances in CC games they are not playing with enough first team regulars so theres no real acclimatisation.

  74. TotAl says:

    Other examples of superior tactics making clubs punching above their weight:

    1. Dortmund outclassing Bayern for two years in a row now;
    2. Charlton A under Curbishley: defying gravity year after year;
    3. AZ winning Dutch championship under Van Gaal a few years ago – leaving the likes of Ajax, PSV with far bigger budgets and players well behind;
    4. Ajax in the mid-nineties;
    5. Swansea and Norwich this season. Would you want to buy any of their players? Don’t think so, but they left a lot of teams, who have better players, behind them last season.
    6. Wenger at Arsenal and Monaco
    7. MU getting the better of Chelsea in recent years. The latter club have spend a lot more on players but the Mancs usually outmanoeuvre them.

    I could go on.

  75. goonermichael says:

    I’ve just read that Gazprom will be chelsea’s new shirt sponser. usmanov is director general of gazprom.

  76. tomstoned says:

    and on a short note the FFP imo will only divide the footballing world into classes…where we would be a well run middelclass club..all neat and tidy..this is the way of capitalism..

  77. goonermichael says:

    well the investment arm of gazprom

  78. tomstoned says:

    spot on but dont forget not only tactics but also just as important keeping a squad of players together for several years..who doesnt remember Dinamo Kiev back in the days 😉

  79. Gooner In Exile says:

    Tom interesting you mention Dortmund and Munich both of which operate in a league that has been operating its form of FFP for a number of years, as Dortmund players are starting to get known they are being targeted (Kagawa to United). Munich have massive income in relation to Arsenal £70m per season more.


    Good article

  80. TotAl says:

    Hi Tom, I do like your style mate. You say it as it is, but are resilient and fair at the same time. 🙂

    I hope to have a beer with you one day and we can talk about the Norwegian way of life, which fascinates me! 🙂

    I don’t mind being a feeder club, as long as it the scraps that get sold for lots of cash! 🙂 But agreed on holding on to our key players: that goes without saying.

    GiE, I fully agree with you. Consistency with an element of rotation is the way forward. I just don’t think Wenger has been much in a position to apply this recently, due to the continuous injuries we endured.


    Hi TA, sure, there was a lot of luck with Chelseas success but to keep Barca out on there pitch with ten men is simply phenomenal. To some extent they repeated this trick against Munich. I think if we tried such an approach our younger pool of players would be found wanting.

    As for Mourinio, great manager but he is short term in his approach. His signings included Milito, Eto and Sneider, thats not realy planning for the future is it. All his succesors suffer because there is no long term plan. Younger players hardly got a sniff when he was at Inter. Give me Chapman or Shankley any day. There succesors won more than them but they are remembered for the groundwork.

    I would also like to point out that Arsene Wengers Arsenal teams are about the development of players to the point were they become the best team possible (if only we could keep them) not about tactics. Tactics are for weaker teams and short term managers. Dynastys are built on hard work, ethos and development of players.

  82. tomstoned says:

    GiE..thats true mate…im not sure but i tend to believe that the Germans are abit special…i might be wrong but *ordnung muss sein*but i accept that you have a very valid point…moreover if this could be replicated…well i would have to rethink mate..
    still….one should be aware of the fact that big clubs in Germany was in one heck of a state…even Bayern struggled…not like chelski or citeh..our only hope of FFP going to work…is a far worse economic situation than now…and maybe a new oil war 😉
    but the article is great..and GiE..much appreciated..

  83. TotAl says:

    Richie, ‘the night life ain’t no good life, but it’s my life’. Just to let you know I have read your comments posted at times when usually only the BFG is out to collect dreams, and I enjoy reading them every time.

    Re Auxerre: that is another fantastic story of how tactics, footballing nous and ‘un nez pour les footballeurs extra-ordinaire’ can get you very far.

  84. tomstoned says:

    Thanks TotAl..

    i’d have a beer with you anytime mate..im not as far out as people think..ask my misses ;..but im stubborn….maybe my work at a weather staion in Svalbard…for 6 months a year makes me somewhat like a ice bear…..sometimes my rather poor English lets me down..but all in all…im just a Gooner ..and even if i dont agree with all i do like to read the posts in here..some a truly great and some well are as poor as it gets imo….

  85. TotAl says:

    Hi Terry, I think Maureen is a total front bottom, but it is fair to say that he built up a team at the Chavs of which they have benefited long since he left them.

    Re Arsenal. Maybe we are mixing up words here. I am talking about teams who choose a certain style of play, a system of play with roles and tasks for every player, and a set of tactics on how to perform to their maximum. Obviously every team works along these lines, but the likes of Arsene, Van Gaal, Klopp, Rodgers, etc are able to get results without necessarily having 11 top, top players on the pitch. That’s what makes them special and it is the only hope we, and many others, have against the Oilers principle of having (as much as possible) two world class players for every position.

    I believe that is exactly the reason Liverpool got Rodgers and why Klopp and Arsene are such wanted men.

  86. TotAl says:

    Hi Tom, do you have to leave your family behind (I seem to remember that like me you have a 7/8 year old daughter) when you do your 6 months in Svalbard, and do you have any colleagues on location?

    Btw, your English is fantastic.

  87. TotAl says:

    Jurgen Klopp:

    “If I have someone causing trouble, I will no longer let them play for the club,” the 45-year-old said in an interview with Bild.

    “The person would clearly not understand what our team stands for, and I would therefore have to separate them from the team.

    “As such, we don’t have players like Marcio Amoroso, who brought his own doctor and physiotherapist, any more.”

    “Something like that will not happen again. Whoever threatens the big picture can go.”

    ‘Whoever threatens the big picture can go’. Read it as: individual players, however good, need to fit into the team strategy and culture, and no player is more important than the team. This way the power balance between club and individual player(s) is a lot more healthy.


    Very interesting TA. I agree with everything you have just said. The distinction is between strategy and tactics. ive always believed tactics to be on the lower rung as compared to strategy. Arsenes strategy is to build teams around a certain formation, getting the maximum from his players and instilling them a sense of belief. Many times ex players have said Arsene dosnt bother about the opposition or change his tactical approach based on who were playing. His system, and the groundwork behind it is already there. this is what i class as strategy.

    Tactics? When you change from game to game to cater the opposition. This is what smaller clubs tend to do in order to grind out wins.

    In the long term all succesful clubs must have strategy, both on and off the pitch. The long term essence of strategy in football is mostly dependent on players. You dont have to tell them anything before a game, the work has already been done.


    TA, i agree with Klopp 100%. As i said, strategy, ethos or if you wish culture, is what creates succesful organistions.

  90. TotAl says:

    Agreed with most that Terry. I think there is still a distinct difference between the top clubs in terms of applying different tactics depending on the opposition.

    Those manager who believe in (a variant of) total football: Van Gaal, Arsene, Guardiola, Klopp etc, are unlikely to make many, if any, tactical/formation changes based on the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition. Theirs is a holistic, all-encompassing approach that is supposed to be able to deal with any opposition.

    But, the likes of Maureen, RedNose and many other top managers will analyse their opponents and define a match-specific strategy i.e. a set of tactics to conquer them.


    One thing before i retire to my coffin. In football, to succed your strategy is dependent on your employees. In other words all your workforce from the person who washes the kit to the best player. But your key employees are your players. They will make the diference between winning things or not.

    This is why we can, and in my opinion will win the league this season. We have the best strategy and culture, and now we have a great pool of players with a very nice mix of youth, experience, and of course quality. Winning the title is not a pipe dream for a club of Arsenals class. If any one says to you that Arsenal lacks ambition, i suggest laughing in there face. They dont understand the club. We will go very close this year.

  92. Rob Lucci says:

    TA,Terry, and others..

    this is an excellent and neat article by Tim from 7amkickoff on the worth of a manager like Arsene and SAF to their respective club.


  93. TotAl says:

    That’s why we love you Terry – the eternal optimist! 🙂

    Hi Rob, I will have a read now – cheers! 🙂


    Thats true TA, like when Ferguson tried to employ the tactic of kicking us up in the air or more recently playing Fletcher and Park to flood the midfield.

    Ime in the camp of the great Brazil, Dutch, Real Madrid teams. Go out and play, enjoy, entertain, and you will come out on top. i will never change, football is meant to be enjoyed. hahaha.

    Night TA


    Thanks for the link Rob. will have to read it tommorow. My eyes are been kept open with matchsticks. Have a terrible fear ime going to wake tomorrow morning looking like bug Ozil. hahaha.

    Night all

  96. TotAl says:

    Mesut Ozil eyes transplant – sweet dreams 🙄

  97. TotAl says:

    Thanks Rob, that is a very well written and intriguing article. Say it is true that a £120m investment in new players and salaries this summer would help us make a step improvement. Wouldn’t we be back at square one as soon as the Oilers decide to burn us off with raising the bar significantly once again through big cash injections?

  98. VCC says:

    Morning all.

    Fine post TotAl. Top drawer as always.

    If Bouldy can teach us to defend properly, we have a fair shout this season.

    TMHT. 11:43. I sincerely hope so.

  99. Red Arse says:

    Morning VCC, 🙂

  100. Red Arse says:


    Sorry I was unable to be around much yesterday.

    Thank you for your responses to my simple observation that a limited number of tactical machinations; 4:4:2, 5:3:2 etc, means that if tactics were so important, each coach could match/cancel out the tactics of the other coach and therefore negate their success.

    If we left out the results of the best and worst teams in a league, in order to try and concentrate on a consistent mean (all the players would be of a [plus, minus] equivalent ability), you would expect them all to cancel each other out if tactics was the defining factor.

    As a math guy, I realize you would also have to factor in a ‘weighting’ for good old Lady Luck, but even if this was possible, I suspect the results would show that something other than tactics was at play, even within those teams of supposedly similar ability.

    One such consideration is that even within a team of similar ability, there are players of varying abilities, but the weakest member can play at a level well above himself, simply by being with other players of the very best quality, but the converse is also true.

    In other words, like in algebra, if you have two constants on either side of an equation, [the tactics in this case] they would cancel each other out and the calculation of the result would also be with other factors of luck, ability, and the random or chaos integer.

    You quote the results of supposedly less able teams overcoming their expected deficiency in ability or numbers [10 men etc] and winning through. Of course that is the epitome of football, the unexpected, caused by the random, unpredictable nature of the game, which backs up my [unresearched] theory set out above, and makes us all love the game for what it is.

    Strategy, tactics, luck and the ‘unknown’ all contribute to the outcome of a game, but over-riding all these is the quality of the players, and a rough rule of thumb is that the higher the number of high quality players in a team, who, ironically, make their own tactics on the fly, depending on the opposition and the current needs of the team, the greater the chances of the team winning.

    Damn! I would have loved to explore this argument further with you both, but just as well I was not around, as it would probably have bored the arses off everyone else!! 🙂

  101. chas says:

    Are you saying Brave Sir Robin is fed up of playing with sh*t players? 🙂

  102. Red Arse says:

    I would prefer it to be the opposite, Chazzer! 🙂

    Players, as we know, march to a different drumbeat than us fans.

    Players know their own chances of winning trophies,and improving their own personal and the team performances (= more money) is enhanced by having better players around them.
    Apart from friendship, that’s why they would want him to stay.

    This also explains, in part, RVP’s assessment of the rest of the players at Arsenal, and why he wants to go a club with many other players as good as or better than himself.

  103. chas says:

    So feck all to do with loads more luvverly dosh, then? 🙂

  104. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Blimey RA, you were on the fish last night weren’t you 🙂
    Chas, “Brave Sir Robin” ha ha

  105. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Very interesting chat about personnel/quality/tactics.
    There is something else to lob into the equation, and that is team spirit and leadership. I’m thinking back to Wimbledon. They did have a clear tactical approach, and a distinct lack of technical ability, and yet the match of players to approach and the balance of players within that approach was near perfect.

  106. MickyDidIt89 says:

    I really don’t believe it is about the money in the case of Brave Sir Robin. I think he may genuinely want to win a PL/CL before his career ends, and his chances with us are very slim.
    I must make myself clear on him, and that is I think he’s a complete snake for having a go at the club and Arsene, so he can bugger off, bravely, of course!

  107. chas says:

    You might be right, Micky.
    I’m sure the FFBW doesn’t give a monkey’s that half of his Prem winners medal was earned from the bench while trousering 700k a month.

  108. Red Arse says:

    Morning, Micky, 🙂

    I do try and restrict my footie comments and not indulge in esoteric mathematical badinage.

    Just occasionally I lapse, especially when TA and 26M are engaging me in polite chat!! 🙂

    Of course I am sure you will agree that the whole of life, the universe, and everything is dictated by mathematical probability!! 🙂

    Ouch and Ouchhhh, again. [I have just chastized myself for another relapse] 😦

  109. Red Arse says:

    BTW, Chazzer, another brilliantly funny and apt vid!! 🙂

    I wonder if RVP has seen it? 🙂

  110. MickyDidIt89 says:

    No its not.
    Probability includes variables, and there are none. Everything is certain. All is very black and white and I do not believe in grey areas 🙂

  111. MickyDidIt89 says:

    That is just so so funny.

  112. TotAl says:

    Morning AA’ers!! 🙂

    Hi RA, if I may…. disagree with you to a certain extent.

    Yes your rule of thumb makes sense.

    However, as I explained last night to TMHT, with tactics I meant everything to do with football style, formation –> the system of football played with inherent tactics.

    Different qualities in players are required for the sort of football systems that Wenger, Van Gaal, Klopp or Guardiola play, compared to Ferguson or Maureen.

    I reckon, Van Gaal would rather not work with the very ‘generally recognised as very best players available’, as their (often) big egos stand in the way of making players adept to work with his system of football. Van Gaal needs very good players that he can mould, not necessarily 11 or more superstars.

    It definitely helps to be able to buy and retain the best quality footballers for a particular system of football, though. That’s why Barcelona are more successful than Arsenal, Ajax or Dortmund.

    The assumption, however, that what mainly matters is to have as many as possible quality footballers in order to achieve success, is not correct. The ability of the manager, the system of football (and associated tactics), and, as you rightly mentioned a generous dollop of luck, are equally as important.

    26 and I have given examples last night to proof my last point. 🙂

  113. TotAl says:

    Cheers VCC! 🙂

  114. chas says:

    Haha, a visual metaphor describing the Arsenal fan’s viewing experience. (Only sometimes though, thank Dennis)

  115. Rasp says:

    Morning all, Double98 has provided today’s ……

    ….. New post …..

  116. TotAl says:

    Micky @8.45 excellent point! 🙂

  117. Wombledin says:

    This sums it up really. It will be the same old same old, the leopard won’t change his spots. Wenger won’t strength the defence and he doesn’t know how to defend properly. He doesn’t believe in defending to win games. We have second-string back-ups at defence and it will be just like last season, with key injuries and fickle displays from the Wenger’s love-child Djoupoo and promoted reserve kids. Our wingbacks are instructed to bomb forward at every opportunity but we don’t have the defensive class or depth to fill the gaps on the counter. As soon as Arteta’s injured too we will fall apart defensively. There will be a slight improvement defensively from last season at best but with RVP gone we will be worse offensively.

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