Who Dares Wins

November 20, 2012

My footballing titillator for today is all about Risk.

I thought short and hard how best to make my point, and here it is:

GOOD: “Arsenal come streaming forward now in surely what will be their last attack. A good ball by Dixon, finding Smith, for Thomas, charging through the midfield. Thomas, it’s up for grabs now. Thomaaaaas! An unbelievable climax to the league season.”

BAD: “Arsenal come streaming forward now in surely what will be their last attack. A good ball by Dixon, finding Smith, for Thomas, charging through the midfield. Thomas, it’s up for grabs now. Thomas turns, plays the ball back to Richardson, who finds Adams…”

Now, imagine you were Mickey Thomas at that very moment you received the ball from Smudger. You could have looked up and thought: “Crikey, defenders homing in on all sides. A goalkeeper advancing. I don’t like the look of my chances. Nah, stop, pass back, safety first”.

But no, our Hero thought: “Sod it, I’ll have a go”.

In other words, he did a quick risk assessment, and thought “Mmmm”. He did not think about what’s the worst that could happen, he thought about what’s the best thing that could happen here, and went for it.

My view is that games are often won on the back of split second decisions. The term “who dares wins” springs to mind. Yesterday, Rocky instigated a superb debate about the defence and the balance between attack and defence. Solidity, composure and zero risk should be the hallmarks of a good defence. Whereas moments in attack should be coloured with spontaneity, elasticity and high risk.

The three positions where this should be most evident are in the two wide positions and the most advanced midfielder. During phases of most games, and in some entire games, we do not employ our “taker on’ers” to do their “taking on”. Chief amongst these are Santi, Theo, Gerv, Ox and AA. Players who can take one defender out of the equation and commit another. This inevitably creates space.

I have urged “thrust” on here before, but that forward surge must not grind to a halt around the penalty area.

Of course this comes with its share of risk, and the failure to succeed will hand possession to the opposition, but look at the wide play from Chelsea, Utd and City. They believe that there are areas of the pitch where risk of failure is acceptable, and I would agree, because the rewards outweigh the downside.

Increasingly this season I have noticed Theo doing this with more success, and even Gerv’s poor final ball does not alter the fact that against Pool, when he was out left, he was creating space in the middle. Our Russian has the same effect, and it is not to be underestimated, ask Centre Forwards the value of space and the opportunities presented by having the luxury of taking on one defender rather than two (Persie thrived on it).

I would like Arsene to preach a high risk strategy in these areas of the pitch, as with our set up of a front three, it is the AM and Wide Boys who will do the damage. Free them. Sod it!

Written by MickyDidIt89


Wenger is Wrong. Bould is Right.

November 19, 2012

It would be nice to think that Emmanuel Adebayor, in kicking Santi Cazorla up in the air, has also kick started our season.

After some toothless displays (from an attacking point of view) against Norwich, Schalke and Manchester United it was also nice to see further evidence that our goal scoring touch has returned. Even against nine men and an ape, a five goal haul is impressive.

However, the worriers and pessimists will still have found something to chew on in the two goals we conceded. For the first Spud goal our defence did not seem sure whether it was stepping up or falling back so, in consequence, it did half of one and half of the other. Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Szczesny could all have done better for that goal.

As for the second Spud score, we gave Bale so much room to shoot he must have thought he was back at Windsor Safari Park.

Certainly we still don’t seem to have the balance right between attack and defence – and there have been rumours recently of a  fall-out between Arsene Wenger and Steve Bould over where the team’s priorities should lie.

Let’s assume that, like the majority of internet rumours, it’s mostly rubbish.

But even so, it is not hard to imagine that there is a grain of truth in it: that the Arsenal manager and his first team coach may have different ideas about whether our emphasis should be on defence or attack.

A couple of weeks ago Wenger was quoted as saying that he thought our players should stop worrying so much about trying not to concede and should, instead, be more cavalier in attack:

“I think what is most important right now is that we find our game back. Our game is about creating chances, about going forward, about having an offensive drive…

“That, at the moment, is missing a bit. I believe I have a team of great players and perhaps they have forgotten a little bit how good they are.

“What is most important is that we play again with our enthusiasm, desire to create chances and enjoy our game, more than thinking about if we concede a goal or not.”

I was not alone in interpreting that comment as Le Boss reasserting his control over the team’s direction after an early season period in which we looked more solid defensively than we had done for a long time. Much credit for this perceived transformation was given to Bould by fans and journalists alike. And, indeed, Wenger may well have felt obliged to listen to his new coach, having just appointed him.

The problem was that although we were not conceding many goals, we weren’t scoring many either.

I understand what Le Boss was getting at with his comments. Successive Wenger teams have succeeded by dazzling the opposition with fast, deadly attacking play and scoring more goals.

He clearly felt that in some performances this season our creative approach has been constipated. The progressive players have been worried about our porous defence and have sacrificed attacking effort for the chance to help out at the back.

You can imagine training ground discussions (if not exactly rows) where Bouldie would be arguing that we should continue to give a priority to not conceding, while Wenger would be saying that it’s not the end of the world to let one in provided we get two or three at the other end.

Obviously both are right up to a point, but I think Bould is more right.

The reason our attacking players are anxious about us not conceding is that they know only too well that we concede far too easily. And rather than the conceded goals not mattering, in fact they regularly wipe out all the good work done by the forwards.

Our strikers scored three good goals against Fulham – but we still couldn’t win. They got two against Schalke – same result.

Just like us fans, the forwards know that we have become far too good at giving away STUPID goals.

All teams concede goals, but we really have been cornering the market on idiot ones:

  • Vermaelen passing the ball to the deadliest striker in the country in our penalty area in the opening minutes of the game at Old Trafford.
  • Letting the poisonous dwarf that is Patrice Evra score from a header in the same game.
  • Berbatov being allowed to head into our net unchallenged from the edge of the six yard box. Unchallenged because Mannone did not come to claim the ball and Sagna (who in any case should not have been marking Fulham’s tallest player) was inexplicably “marking” him on the wrong (non-goal) side.
  • Torres being given time to connect with a cross, again in our penalty area, which should never have reached him.

I’m sure you can add to the list – but you get the point.

We cannot expect to win games when we are so prone to shooting ourselves in the foot.

Most of the idiot goals we have let in have not come as a result of a poor “team defence” performance. Instead they have come from stupid individual errors. It’s a continuation of last season, when we would often dominate possession only to concede to our opponents’ first attempt on goal.

Until we can cut out those errors, our forwards will never feel secure enough to fully express themselves.

That means Bould’s work with the defence should take precedence over everything else. He certainly knows what it takes to defend at the highest level and he needs to impart those skills to our current back line.

I have no idea whether the “zonal marking” issue is part of the problem, but there must be a way of ensuring that our defenders do not keep making schoolboy errors.

I would certainly settle for a little run of “one nil to the Arsenal”s right now.

All of our defenders are capable of playing to very high standard and cutting out the daft individual mistakes. Bould needs to be allowed to continue prioritising working with them to ensure they do so.

RockyLives


“A” “V”ery “B”ig win for Arsenal and some ratings……..

November 18, 2012

Wounded, bloodied and showing signs of decline, as a crisis of confidence has seemingly gripped the arsenal squad of late, we stood on the Lunch time death slot where we have failed to win a game in over 3 years [since Sept 2009 when we beat, Spurs 3-0]…..

In our way again, those unlikeable Lily White neighbours strode in complete with their bloated egos, not exactly in great form themselves, but the usual pre-match hype had them claiming that the gap was closing and today was their day and they would go on to finish above us…..

Arsène fielded pretty much the strongest team available, with injuries slowly abating, Szczesny was back between the sticks, he is our number one that there is no doubt for me, Mannone is an ok No2 but lacks the presence of a top keeper…..

AVB was brave from the start as he went with a very attacking line up, with Defoe and Adebarndoor up front, supported out wide by the overrated lennon and bale, pace wasn’t lacking….At least we had Walcott starting, [how many games has he got left in an Arsenal shirt??]

The first few minutes saw the midfield three of Cazorla, Arteta and Wilshere look to dominate possession, but Spurs were pushing up a high line and squeezing the space in the midfield…..

The crowd were up for it as was Tottenham’s Sandro who went through the back of Giroud early doors, but Arsenal were working hard and most notably Podolski was working very hard defensively, however slowly Spurs were getting at us more and more. Sandro then went through Wilshere……

Walcott was looking up for it and getting crosses in, but still Spurs seemed to get stronger, a breakdown the right from Lennon, gained a free kick as Vermaelen blocked him. Bale floated a free kick in, which was headed straight out to Huddlestone, whose shot was blocked into Gallas path by Kozzer, Gallas scored but was ruled as offside, that was a warning that we didn’t heed.

As Vertonghen hit a quality long ball down the left into the path of Defoe whose movement had left BFG stalling, defoe put it across Szczesny, who got a hand to it, but it fell to Adebarndoor, who tapped it in 0-1….just 10mins in……murmurs…..

Moments later lennon pulled an easy one across the goal with Szczesny looking beaten, I really have never rated lennon, thank god he as poor as I think he is…….Poor man’s Walcott for me…
Arsenal weren’t getting totally outplayed but were struggling to get back on terms, then on 16mins another long ball out by Vertonghen was headed down towards Carzola by BFG who out jumped Adebarndoor, but then Adebarndoor launched himself at the ball and took our little maestro out….

Howard Webb gave him a very deserved red card…….In midst of the heated moments that followed Jack had a little spat with Bale, but was calmed down by the rest. Let’s try and keep 11 on eh..?

Anyway, with numbers in our favour, Arsenal started to dominate, on 23 a great cross by Walcott was met by BFG who powered in a header, to redeem himself from his earlier error, 1-1 …..

Fantastic first goal for the Arsenal by the rather large german…..

With the extra space Arsenals’ talented trio in the middle started to dominate, with Theo looking lively, Giroud looking more and more the striker we needed, Podolski was also still working much harder than he has been.

Half time was getting closer, Sandro was also getting closer to an early bath as well, how he didn’t have at least a yellow was beyond me……Sadly Lloris was looking good in between the sticks, could we get in front?, on 40 Giroud had a very powerful header but it was straight at his French team mate.

Moments later, Arteta, drove across the pitch looking for a one two with Jack, but the ball came off huddlestone and fell to Lukas, who managed to dig the ball out across the back of gallas and it trickled into the far corner as Lloris was wrong footed…….2-1….half time was nigh…..

But wait, Lennon connects with Vermaelen, the free kick which comes back out to Santi, who devilishly darts into the box through a couple of stumbles, but manages to keep his feet, play on from Webb, as Santi squares the ball to Giroud, who with Gallas and Vertonghen in his way, manages to sweep the ball in 3-1, thats 5 goals in 5 for Giroud, after me, who needs Van persie when we’ve got Giroud…….I know….

Second half, starts with AVB going for it, 3 at the back, fair play to the Portu’gueser, bold and brave. Spurs did well as their ten men stuck in there, arsenal wrongly sitting back, the fans were restless, next goal was crucial…..Oh by the way, Sandro was still on the pitch despite even more fouls…

A long goal kick by Szczesny was flicked on by Giroud, to Theo who chest controlled the ball and brought it down, then played Podolski down the left of the box, who then crossed for Santi to come in at the far post and slide the ball in, 60mins 4-1…….

Arsenal didnt take advantage as Spurs continued to try and get back into the game, with yes you guessed it, Sandro was still on the pitch, but finally he gets a card on 66. Then on 70 mins a sliced clearance by BFG was headed into Bales path and he ran forward and dragged a shot back across through Kozzers legs, 4-2. Immediately Le boss replaced Wilshere with Ramsey…The crowd was now very nervous even with the 2 goals and a man advantage….Moments later Bale has another chance but it drifts wide across the goal, that was too close for comfort…….

On 80 Santos replaces Podolski, a luke warm reception for the Brazilian, but he is not at LB, so not too much to worry about there and he didn’t seem to take any shirts off anyone…….On 85 the Ox replaces Giroud….he looked very lively straight away….

Arsenal are now dominating possession, as they knock the ball about…Ox gets the ball off a loose pass from Vertonghen and drives forward into the box and plays it to Theo, who comes across and drags a shot back across Vertonghen and pass the helpless Lloris…5-2, 91 mins……

Not quite as exciting as last years match which ended the same, probably not as satisfying either in a way, but a major boost nonetheless……

Some sites claim this is just papering over the cracks, codswallop, look we have a good squad and some very talented players, we might fall short for the title, but I expect a top 4 finish at minimum, we do have the players when everyone is fully fit…..and all settled……..By the way, I am not getting carried away, work is still needed.

It was good to see Giroud bag another along with Podolski and Santi getting goals, the three newest signings are still settling in, but you can see their quality….if you cant, open your eyes……..

There is more to come, thats for sure……….

Ratings: [In my humble opinion]

Szczesny: 7: Steady game, good to have the Pole back. Unfortunate with the first……

Sagna: 8: Although I am warming to Jenkinson, he is no Sagna yet, quality game by our beaded warrior, linked well with Theo.

BFG:7: At fault for Spurs first, but a great equaliser and worked hard throughout….

Kozzer: 7: Steady and pacy when needed, still finding his feet this season….

Vermaelen: 7: Took his time to settle, doesn’t like the left and it shows, but did a job….

Arteta:7.5: Dictated the play well when in control of the ball, worked hard, tired towards the end..quietly effective.

Santi: 9: Wizard….. great goal capped his Man of the Match*performance……

Wilshere: 7.5: Spikey, passionate, skilful and OURS…..Just gotta to love our Jack….

Podolski:8: Thought that was his best game he has had for a while, defensively worked hard, not lazy today, lets keep it at that level Lukas, nicked a goal as well…..

Giroud: 8: Gets better every week for me, strong and tenacious, holds the ball up well and links well, more skill than most give him credit for, great goal…….

Walcott:9: Pushed Santi for MoTM very close, pacy, direct and great assist as well as a good goal. If its just 10k more he wants, give him that pen now, if you think he isn’t good enough for us, then you have me stumped, ok not as consistent as we all want, but wouldn’t swap him for Lennon, Sinclair, Sturridge, SWP, Johnson or whoever in that category you want to mention……..Classy when in the mood…….

Wenger: 7: Put out his best team available, but allowed the team to sit too deep for me in the 2nd half. Perhaps should of subbed Jack a little bit earlier and Ox really lifted the team when he came on too late.

Overall: Great result, pressure lifted a little with a reasonable performance, team need to push on now, a win midweek and at Villa next Saturday, then we can move on and forget the blip, consistency is needed now without doubt. Good day as Chelsea lost, as did United losing to Norwich 1-0 as well, which we got slated for…will they? Perhaps they missed Webb today?

Side note for AVB: Brave and bold, fair play and you did ok in the 2nd half but your team did not dominate, your team had moments, but you had them at Chelsea as well, how did that end?

Written by Harry


Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners ……..

November 17, 2012

Let’s start the day with a bit of word association. What is the first word which comes to your mind when you read the following….?

Highbury

Tony Adams

Arsenal

Thierry Henry

Tottenham

Gareth Bale

My guess is that the last two was less than complimentary! And that is all we need to know about the importance of today’s game.

I have been steeped in an irrational dislike of all everything associated with N.17 since childhood; the dreadful smell, the slime trails on the pavement, the hairy backed inhabitants, the guttural grunting noises and, above all else, the shower of excrement which purports to play football at SHL.

Most of my life the cave dwellers have been in our shadow. This is no accident., it is natural way of the world; anything else would be an aberration. There have been rare occasions when the fates have turned against us and the Miscreants somehow found themselves above us in the table but these were due to crass bad management of the resources at Highbury – nothing else.

My keyboard is set not to write this word but it must be over-ridden for the sake of this post – Spurs. OK it’s done. Spurs have spent a squillion over the years trying to finish above us in the table. During that time we have a new stadium – they play in a little shed; we have won Doubles, PL titles, Cups, they have won  doodlysquat.

Spurs have gambled on a manager who had a wonderful record before coming to England but is now struggling. One can only assume AVB had no knowledge of the rotten core in N.17  because he sure didn’t need the aggravation of having deluded fans telling him he is shite. I have sullied myself by going to THFC website’s, (needless to say the spelling and grammar is appalling) and the gist is this :- “AVB is an idiot because he plays Defoe instead of Adebayor,” the next day, “AVB is an idiot because he plays Adbeayor and NOT Defoe” ….. same blog! Spurs fans do not like AVB, they liked Harry, who was a crook and stupid (even if he is a dog-lover) – he fitted the club like a silk glove. AVB with his suits and his tactics and his intelligence does not.

We know their players … Cumberstone, MonkeyBoy, Ade, Lemon, WG, Conker etc etc. Dull, dull, dull. We know what to expect – a hard fought midfield battle with plenty of running and long balls to Lemon who cuts inside or crosses. They will not allow us the space we got last season. Should they lose today Spurs will continue their fine run of losses and prove their fans right – Let it be so.

Arsenal: What links Rosicky, Szeczesy, RvP, Gibbs, Song and  Benayoun? That’s right, they all started this fixture last year. So, we have over half the team replaced in a year. How can we achieve consistency with this type of turnover? Plus we have major injury concerns following the Interlull. After finding his form Giroud is struggling for fitness, as is Walcott, Sagna, and Ox. Gibbs is out which is bad news considering the speed of MB and Lemon.

My Team:

Let us assume Arteta, OG and TW are not fit, we could play

I really hope Arshavin gets some pitch time, he can be our super-sub.

Today’s Explorer. James Cook (1728-1779). Without doubt the world’s most famous beardless explorer and an absolutely top bloke. His list of achievements will never be surpassed. Just imagine it, you are on a little boat just 100 foot long with 93 others. That’s right, almost 100 men on a 100 foot boat. And then you go away through uncharted seas for years at a time, Cook not only did this but chose to do so many times. He led an expedition to map Newfoundland, then took the Endeavour to “discover” New Zealand and Australia (and Bora Bora) . The list of places he surveyed for the first time is too long to write here, but take it from a man who passed  Geography A Level (B grade) that it is impressive. Unfortunately Cook died in Hawaii at the hands of a rowdy group of inbreeds from the Paxton Rd End.

4-3-3  or  4-4-2  or  3-5-2?

This is a massive game for both teams who for different reasons are struggling (AFC because we are out of form and crippled by injuries, Spurs because they are rubbish). We need to win, we don’t need to score 5, though it would be nice, we just need to show this team has the potential to progress.

Lose and it will be Mugabe Lock Down for all Gooners.

Written by Big Raddy


How can we get the best out of Arsenal’s players?

November 16, 2012

There has been much recent debate on AA regarding systems and formations. Most of that is centred around our so called 4-3-3 system and how effective it is, and whether we would be better served employing a different system. Firstly I think the reason that we are debating it so much recently is because our performances and results have not been good enough. If we were currently sitting top of the table with some scintillating performances under our belt then we would likely not be talking about this topic nearly so much, if at all. Unfortunately that has not been the case recently and therefore the fine and educated readers of AA often feel the need to analyse and attempt to identify the reasons for our recent shortcomings.

Systems and formations are just one area that some of the Arsenal faithful feel to be the cause of us not performing so well recently. Many may alternatively feel that the main problem is that we don’t play our players in their best positions in the chosen system. Others may feel that we don’t effectively drill and instruct our players well enough, especially where the defence is concerned. It may also be that we have a lot of new players getting to know each other and are still having to adapt to new team mates and a different way of playing.

I know some fans will feel that we are just in that adaptation period and that once these players have developed a better understanding of each other that we will fire on all cylinders. Others would dismiss most of the above and reach the more simple conclusion that it is more about the players and the level of quality that we have within the squad and that systems have very little to do with it.

I actually agree with most of the above points and I more often than not find myself agreeing with the opinions of the many AA’ers on all of these issues. Micky’s recent post on how to bring out the best in Podolski triggered some interesting debates about some of these issues. The question for me is are some of these points more relevant than others? That is difficult to answer. For myself I would currently favour the combined effect of both the chosen formation, and which players are being played where in that formation, as having possibly the biggest impact on some of our more lacklustre performances, and that is why I will talk mostly about those points in this post.

The reason I feel strongly that, with the current Arsenal squad, it is more important for us to be adaptable in our formation is because we are not at the front of the queue in the transfer market to cherry pick the best players.

Our manager still admirably acquires some great bargains but they are often individually a level below what our rivals are able to get. For me it then becomes more important for the sum of all the parts to be greater than the individual, and that means getting the best out of the players, as a team, which I feel means we have to play the correct system with the right players in the right positions to get the strongest possible team performance.

I don’t actually really champion one system over another, but I feel there are times that we should be able to change the formation if things are not working out. For me the chosen formation should represent who we have available and what opposition we are playing and their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Before you think that this will descend into a spew of technical drivel, with more number combinations than the infamous Tuesday night Clacton-on-Sea blue rinse bingo bonanza, I hope I can pleasantly surprise those of you that would normally consider these discussions to be the most powerful cure to insomnia. I am hoping to firstly get across a thought process that I have had for a while which actually attempts to completely simplify the subject and then look at what may be right or wrong with the current formations we use. Whether my thoughts on the matter should be considered in any way correct I will leave up to the esteemed fellows on this site.

I want to start by asking a question that may prove slightly controversial and that some may agree with and some disagree with. That question is :-

“Are we being overcomplicated when we talk about systems and formations and is it in reality far more simple?”

Many systems and formations are often mentioned which are felt may potentially be more effective for us. The greatest variety of formations seems to come from those that start with a flat back 4. I will have missed some out, but amongst the different formations often mentioned would be the following :-

4-5-1

4-3-3

4-4-2

4-3-1-2

4-2-3-1

3-5-2

3-4-3

I have often heard coaches and ex-pros state that football is actually an easy game that is often made to look overcomplicated. Maybe this is in part due to the modern era of the professional game, where the studio analysis is thrashed to death by the pundits and so called experts. If one were being cynical you could form the opinion that these multitudes of formations are just a tool for them, to make themselves seem more knowledgeable and important, and therefore justify their huge salaries.

With this in mind it leads me to the next question that I would like to fling open for discussion, which is :-

“Are there in reality only 2 main systems to choose from, and after that it is all about the quality of players and types of players being employed within that system, and where within that system they are being played?”

When choosing a formation could it be that maybe the only basic choice a manager needs to make is whether to start with a defensive back 3 or a back 4, and that this then dictates one of only 2 main systems. I believe it could be argued that if you start with a back 4, then after that is decided it is only the types of players playing in certain positions that will dictate if it shapes up more as a 4-3-3, 4-5-1, 4-4-2 or any one of the other connotations. Micky’s recent post threw up some debates on this and I noticed that some views were that, once the game is under-way, there is a fluid interchange of players and that they don’t remain lined up in any one rigid formation. I would agree with this view and feel that what makes the formation look more like one particular system or the other, as the game unfolds, are the types of players that are being played in the various areas of the pitch. The way the opposition sets up and their strengths and weaknesses in certain parts of their team will possibly also dictate how our formation ends up looking once the game is in mid flow.

I will try and give a couple of examples to back this argument and leave it for you all to decide if you agree or not. I would like to compare a past great Arsenal side to today’s side. I will not list the back 4 players specifically as both teams are starting with a flat back 4, and I will focus more on the 6 players comprising the midfield through the attack. It could look as follows :-

PAST TEAM

RFB CD CD LFB

Ljunberg Vieira Gilberto Pires

Bergkamp

Henry

CURRENT TEAM

RFB CD CD LFB

Arteta Wilshere

Cazorla

Ramsey Podolski

Giroud

The past team lines up in the classic 4-4-2 with DB in the number 10 / withdrawn strikers role. The current team are lining up in the favoured 4-3-3 formation that we have witnessed many times this season. If we were, however, looking at both of these teams in a hypothetical game, what happens if with the past team Pires and Ljunberg push up the pitch and come inside a little and at the same time DB has pulled slightly deeper into midfield to get more on the ball. For me then the shape would more resemble our current 4-3-3. If in the current team Podolski and Ramsey start playing deeper and wider and at the same time Santi has pushed up closer to Giroud then the current team would shape up more as a 4-4-2. If Santi remains a bit deeper as well then it would shape up more like a 4-5-1. If Wilshere and Arteta remain slightly deeper with Ramsey, Santi and Podolski slightly higher then is that a 4-2-3-1? And so on and so on, I feel you could continuously tweak these interchanging positions and come up with any number of formations.

So the question is that when you start with a back 4 are you actually only playing one system that will potentially only look different based on the type of players in the various positions, and does the formation only really change if you switch to a back 3? I will let you all decide that.

What did however interest me was a few weeks back when I questioned how was it that we could line up in a 4-3-3 and look so good against Liverpool but the same system against Norwich, who should be inferior opposition, looked so impotent. One other poster actually replied to me that we actually played a 4-4-2 against Liverpool which was confirmed by aerial shots that showed the positions of our players taking up this formation for much of the game. I would suggest that we actually lined up as a 4-3-3 but something different happened in this game as it unfolded. There were certainly 3 differences in that Gibbs, the Ox and Diaby all started at Liverpool but at Norwich it was Santos, Gervinho and Ramsey in their respective positions. Could it be that this was the key difference?

One of the biggest differences for me in looking at the above past and current team is in comparing Dennis and Santi. Both are fine players, but I would describe Dennis as being a withdrawn striker who with his technical ability can drop deeper into midfield to pull strings, while I would say Santi is an attacking midfielder who can push up into the withdrawn strikers role. I wonder if that slight difference is a key to how the formation ends up looking, because both players have slightly different instincts in the positions on the pitch that they favour.

I certainly feel that currently we play better when Santi gets higher up the pitch and positions himself in the spaces between their midfield and defence. It gives us a forward penetrative pass option and gets closer support to Giroud, and also when the ball is played into Santi in these positions the 2 wide players run off him better.

He did this well at Liverpool but seemed to play too deep at Norwich so we had limited penetration and seemed to be going sideways and backwards too often.

Was this because Santi still hasn’t quite fully developed that instinct that allows him to regularly and comfortably take up these more advanced positions or was it more something that the opposition did?

Does it even matter at times why it is not working and should we just accept it isn’t and just look to change formation to pose the opposition a different problem?

Giroud certainly ended up looking isolated at Norwich and it seemed to scream out to me to change the formation to get a second striker in behind him. If any player in our squad has similar characteristics to DB I would say it is Arshavin. Could it have been an option to take off Ramsey and move Santi deeper with AA dropping in behind Giroud?

This may have started to look more 4-4-2. Would we have then been overrun in midfield as some would say if AA is instructed to play higher and more centrally? I actually don’t know but we never used to be overrun with the past sides in this system. We could have also switched to 3 at the back and gone 3-5-2 which would also get us 2 strikers out there.

I know some of you do not like the idea of 3-5-2 and I will be interested to hear your thoughts on why. I feel any set-up has its strengths and weaknesses, but I would suggest that Norwich didn’t carry enough threat to exploit the weaknesses of a 3-5-2 and we would have dominated the midfield possession while getting a second striker in support of Giroud. Would I have played that at Old Trafford? I am not sure but possibly not because Utd would be far more able to exploit the space in behind the wing backs than Norwich would have.

There are plenty of questions and I don’t really have the answers to them all. I am just another armchair manager and occasional keyboard warrior, but I still feel that we don’t currently make best use of the players we have in, firstly playing them in their strongest positions and, secondly in using what we have to change the tactical formation during a game. Anyway for those of you that have managed to get to the end and are still awake let’s hear your thoughts.

Written by GoonerB


Arsène: Listen to the Wisdom of the Fans!

November 15, 2012

That headline might strike some of you as a cheekily bold statement, or maybe an obviously sensible and earnest request, or perhaps just the fans’ conceited over estimation of their ability to advise a highly intelligent man, commended by many pundits and fans as one of the best Arsenal managers  ever, on how to do his job.

Before jumping to conclusions, let’s quietly have a look at how taking this advice could, should and would be beneficial to all involved – Arsene, the club and also devoted Gooners everywhere.

It has long been held that, in some circumstances, large groups of individuals often demonstrate more intelligence and problem solving ability than smaller groups, or even elite, professional groups and that this collective intelligence is far greater than that of the most intelligent person in any given group.

If we take our common interest in Arsenal and our concomitant desire for the club to successfully reach decisions enabling it to achieve the trophies many would love to see them collect, whilst also being run in a way that protects the future of the club, we, the fans, the owners, the coach and the players can be considered just such a group as we all have the same objectives.

What the heck am I talking about?

The example most frequently given, though there are many others, is that of an ox which was paraded at a County Fair, and offered to the person who could most accurately guess the butchered weight of the poor beast.

The competition was open to any individual, in what was a huge crowd, even including expert butchers and, to the surprise of the judges, it was the average of the guesses which were made that was much closer to the true weight of the ox, rather than any of the individual or expert estimates that were received!

Applying the theory to Arsenal, it suggests that a large, diverse collection of independent individuals or small groups representing such individuals, such as the many blogsites available on the internet, could collectively make better decisions for certain parts of the running of the club, such as transfer decisions, than any one individual or small group of experts, however clever they may be, and that includes Arsene!

The way forward for undertaking this decision making process would, most logically, have to be a forum, possibly the AST, representing the collective views of the many blogging sites found on the internet, which would collect and promulgate the disparate views and opinions, however strange, made by the many thousands of Gooners throughout the world, and distil them into viable decisions which could be presented to the club.

There are some simple criteria and safeguards which would need to be put into play, of course, and these would necessarily include, the need to have as many blogsites’ inputting their opinions as possible. Within each blogsite it would be critically important that no blogger should feel coerced, influenced or persuaded to change his/her mind because of the opinions of the more eloquent bloggers around them, and, finally, there would need to be a way of channelling the key decisions arrived at by each blogsite to the agreed Forum.

Many Gooners might find the following interesting, because it is not intuitive, but as a way of enfranchising as many as possible from all parts of the world, and to encourage them to participate fully, it might help to know the following.

  1. Groups/blogsites, are collectively more intelligent than the smartest person in them
  2. For the blog to be intelligent it must be diverse, independent and decentralized.
  3. To make the best decisions there must be disagreements, arguments and contests.
  4. Listening to too much outside information makes a group less intelligent.
  5. There is certainly no need to consult the ‘expert’ within the group.

All good?

Well, before Arsene starts reading the blogs in earnest, it is worth pointing out that there may be a fly in the ointment.

There is a psychological phenomenon that can occur within a group of people such as those frequenting a blogsite. That is the natural desire to be in harmony with others, especially when decision making, and this, unfortunately, overrides the pragmatic appraisal of realistic alternatives and devalues the expected output.

The effect is straightforward , in that members on a blogsite try to minimise conflict with those they consider as friends and acquaintances and therefore reach an unhappy and unsatisfactory compromise decision, on, for example, whether or not Arsenal need to give priority to buying a defender, or whether that priority should be for the purchasing of a world class centre forward, because it is very difficult to critically evaluate that decision while under the cosh of social pressures calling for uniformity.

However, the real cost of trying to achieve unanimity when fans are deeply involved in a cohesive ‘in’ group such as a blogsite is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking, because of an innate desire for collective optimism and the avoidance of collective conflict.

None of the difficulties mentioned, above, would justify Arsene Wenger in ignoring this request to listen to the fans, and to not carry out a conscientious in-depth and careful analysis of the views expressed on the fans’ blogs, even as they are, because despite all their imperfections, and without there being a real driver to put in place the Forum suggested above, there really is a highly motivated and intelligent decision making source out there that he should be tapping into.

Without going all Star Trek Voyager on you, although there is a lot to be said for looking at and listening to ‘7 of 9’, for some of us at least, the evidence all points to the collective intelligence being greater than the single entity, and among the myriad, disorganized, jumble of voices calling out, via the blogs, for this or that change at the club, and the prevarications on how the club should be run, some of which are pure nonsense, there is a nugget of pure decision making gold out there, among the frenetic voices of the fans, just waiting to be garnered.

Come on, Arsene, be bold, Listen to the Wisdom of the Fans, and we will conquer the world!

Written by Red Arse


Vorsprung Durch Podolski

November 14, 2012

This commonly used German phrase is usually translated into English as ‘Progress Through Podolski’, and I think it is time The Arsenal started Vorsprunging Herr Lukasgoalmeister more effectively.

I should point out that I originally penned this post prior to the game at Old Trafford, however, I think it is equally relevant today. If anything, more so, on the back of two recent revelations.

Firstly, the Lucas post Schalke interview to a German Journo where, in answering a question regarding his short time at The Arsenal, he revealed that he is less than happy being out left in addition to his defensive duties.

The second revelation came days later from Arsene himself, who stated that the role of the wingers in the modern came with increasingly defensive responsibilities.

While neither of these statements make happy reading, I think what is most worrying is when you consider our goalscoring options. Centrally speaking we have Giroud, Chamakh and Podolski. I would say that the first two offer similar tactical threats, leaving Podolski as the only one offering something different.

Any team should be armed with a minimum of two attacking tactical options, whether they are played in tandem or as alternatives for different phases of the same game, or to pose different threats to counter various defensive set-ups posed by opposition personnel.

My question, therefore, is how to get the most out of our asset?

I do remember discussing the possible acquisition of Podolski with Rasp in December of last year. Unlike Rasp, I was not convinced that he fit our style of play. However, I did my usual thorough research on youtube and noticed not only the number of goals he scored at club level when playing centrally, but how acute was his sense of positioning and off the ball running. He is a very instinctive goal grabbing opportunist.

Ignoring the defensive role of being wide left, I think it is unsuitable for him for two reasons. Firstly, he does not possess a good cross, and if he is to be out there, we can assume Giroud will be the target in the middle. In other words, we do not get the best out of either.

The other reason is that we nullify the effect of his greatest asset. His left footed Howitzer of a shot. This is always going to be at its most devastating when fired from a more central position, or at least coming in from the right. That bit really is fairly elementary geometry and angles stuff.

The other evening, Rasp and GiE were having a “stat-off”, and one of them stated that against Fulham we planted 39 crosses. Interestingly, after the game I was walking with Rasp and Peaches and I made the observation of how poor the aerial service to Giroud had been. The vast majority of balls find the Frenchman having to crane his neck backwards rather than thrusting his full power and momentum forwards and goalwards.

At this juncture, I want to hand over to you lot to come up with formations and line-ups that get the best out of the formidable armoury at our disposal. You are probably all sick of my 3-5-2 stuff, but recently on this site, elements of this formation were given the thumbs up by none other than that all round brainbox and footballing tactical bollocks genius, Mr GoonerB.

This works for me:

Or perhaps there is a 4-4-2 in there somewhere. Then again, is it simply an either/or scenario for Giroud and Podolski in Arsene’s favoured from three. Arshavin Podolski Theo looks nice on paper.

I like any player who works hard in an Arsenal shirt, and Podolski is foremost in that category. I just want to see him doing what he does best. Scoring 20+ goals a season. Something that will never happen stuck where he is.

Written b MickyDidIt89


Our Squad – Paddling Pool or Diving Pool

November 13, 2012

Anyone who has seen my comments for any reasonable period will know there are two things that annoy me, navel gazing and regurgitation of “facts” which have no underlying substance….actually make that three things….and Tony Pulis.

So the latest complaint from many a Gooner is that our squad is not deep enough, now we are seeing a few injuries we are also seeing a few cracks appear. I know we wouldn’t be football fans if we didn’t react to situations at our club emotionally, but I have two questions, are we really that weak in depth, and if we are that weak, are we any worse off than the other contenders fighting on four fronts? (well in effect three fronts for Chelsea and Man Utd and just the two for City).

Please understand I am not for one second saying we have the best starting eleven or the best players but in terms of our back up (squad) players I ask you to look at the other teams and ask would you really take any of their second and third choices over ours.

In the Capital One Cup a week or so back Chelsea started with Cahill and Luiz at centre backs, surely the Capital One Cup is not the height of their ambition that they played these two by choice, they also started Mata and played him for 120 minutes, so that was three regular league starters in their line up, United fielded two very inexperienced young defenders at centre half, surely their squad is deeper than that? So were Chelsea really keen on the Capital One Trophy or did they have no other options, as for United did they really not care enough to field the youngsters or is their squad not as deep after all?

So with nothing better to do with my time I headed to wiki and put all the squads into a spreadsheet to compare each position side by side.

I have included Liverpool squad below not because I think they are contenders but purely and simply because I really like to laugh at what they have become, as Rocky pointed out yesterday its always good to look for positives and in my opinion if that doesn’t put a smile on your face the next best thing to do is laugh at the misfortune of others.

This is a club that swept all before them in the 80’s, won the Champions League less than a decade ago but have now slipped out of the reckoning in most major competitions, I have yet to see a broken Liver Bird splashed on the back page of the tabloids, or Dippers in Crisis headline that this fall from grace surely deserves. (Okay thats four things that annoy me).

Where better to start than goalkeepers:

So looking at that list is their any keeper who you think is better than our 2nd and 3rd choices? Perhaps the only team that does is Spurs (off to wash my mouth). The constant question from people disappointed by our custodians is “why can’t we buy someone like Schwarzer as cover?”, my question is why has no one else? Lets be honest City can have any player they want but they signed Richard Wright as cover when Stuart Taylor hung up his gloves, why don’t keepers want to go and play second fiddle? Because keepers want to play, they expect to play, if they are number one at a club they can have the plaudits even if the team in front of them is not that good, they can’t get plaudits on the bench, they lose international spots by being on the bench, they don’t like sitting on the bench.

On to the full backs:

I rest my case

Centre backs:

Now it becomes clear why Chelsea started Luiz and Cahill, with no Terry (due to suspension) and Ivanovic their only viable option at right back they have no cover at Centre Back, an injury to either of the remaining two and who knows who they will play at Centre Back, Man Utd due to injuries to Vidic, Jones and Smalling, could not risk their two first choice centre backs before our visit to Old Trafford (admittedly if they had known we were going to turn up and play like big girls blouses they might have) so were left with no other option than to play two inexperienced youngsters, we on the other hand had the spare capacity to field two experienced centre backs in the Capital One Cup (not that it did us many favours).

Midfield:

Obviously we all know Arsene likes a midfielder so we must have the most players in this area.

Compared to the other teams I do not think the depth looks that bad, however here is where the obvious issue of injury raises its ugly but familiar head, presently without Diaby and Rosicky, but we can arguably cope with two injuries in this area of the pitch. Look at Chelsea and I’m not sure you could say the same, United would end up fielding Giggs and Scholes week in week out. City, Spurs and Liverpool all have inexperienced players in waiting that I am not sure their managers would like to utilise regularly.

Forwards:

Obviously the split between midfielders and forwards is subjective but if we assume everyone uses a 4-3-3 of sorts this was the best way to split up the squads.

Again looking at the list of talent across the squads, perhaps only United go as deep as us, there is also an argument that says the players they have got will make more impact on a game. Chelsea without doubt have two of the best forwards in the league in Mata and Hazard, but injury to either and they don’t look any better off.

And finally the strikers:

Now this is our weakest area on the pitch, thankfully we only play with one striker, and in some matches we haven’t even fielded them instead choosing to use some forwards in their place.

In reality however only United and City have more depth than us, and I don’t think Liverpool, Chelsea or Spurs can promote a striker from their forward line where as we do at least have that option.

So in summary do you still think the squad is not deep enough? I expect the answer to that question is still yes, the question that should be asked though is:

Is the squad shallower than our nearest rivals?

For me it isn’t, the difference between the teams is the starting elevens, Chelsea and City have invested many millions to achieve a very good first 15 players, but they have limited themselves further down the pecking order, especially as they ready themselves for FFP. Any significant injuries or suspensions and they will struggle.

Perhaps this is the one area where we are quite literally weaker, not in the amount of players or the quality of player but in physical strength, we seem to suffer injuries far more frequently than the other competing sides, City hardly suffered an injury of note last season they are a physically strong team, those that come from outside the Premier League are physically strong, the ones from within the Premier League conditioned for battle already, perhaps with the exception of Silva.

So Paddling Pool or Olympic Diving Pool?

(In my defence I wrote this post after Reading and before Old Trafford, but it fits the bill of “Be positive about Arsenal Week” as started by Rocky yesterday).

Gooner in Exile


Arsenal: Reasons To Be Cheerful

November 12, 2012

We are living through troubled times as Arsenal followers these days.

Two-goal leads should be precious, closely-guarded things but our grip on them at the moment is about as secure as Nicky Bendtner’s trouser elastic.

Mid table teams used to come to the home of Arsenal with trepidation in their hearts, knowing that if they had the temerity to threaten our goal they would get badly gored by a raging Adams, a rabid Keown or a berserk Bouldie.

Now the only risk they face in our penalty box is loneliness, as they’re left to stand there all on their todd, cleaning their fingernails and humming pop ditties until someone sticks the ball onto their boot or bonce.

In such circumstances it takes a very special Gunner to not be disheartened (actually, we’ve got one – he’s called Terry Mancini Hair Transplant and you will meet him later on in the comments if you choose to linger).

So, tempting though it is to reel off a long list of grievances, today I want to highlight a few positive thoughts about our predicament.

You might call it clutching at straws. On a mountainside. With a thousand-foot plummet to certain death waiting below.

You might call it rose tinted glasses. Tinted with the tears of blood I have been crying lately.

Or you could just take it in the spirit it’s intended and, for a few minutes at least, look on the bright side.

  • Some of our team members are playing badly, but they are not bad players. At the start of the season a centre back three of Vermaelen, Koscielny and Mertesacker seemed like a match for anybody. The first two are having a real dip in form, but their best form will return.
  • Jack Wilshere is only at 70% of his powers. After 17 months off through injury and surrounded by new faces in the team, it will take time for him to regain his peak but when he does our team will contain the best English player and, possibly, the best player in England.
  • We are having our worst start to a season for 20 years… but we are still only one point behind the Spuds.
  • If we do end up in a scrap for fourth place, at least two of our potential rivals are struggling (Liverpool and Newcastle), the Spuds are as inconsistent as ever and only Everton look like a serious threat. But Everton traditionally struggle to maintain form across a whole season.
  • It’s just over six weeks to the transfer window and we know that Arsene loves a little January flutter once in a while.

  • Olivier Giroud is proving to be something we have not had for a very long time: a tireless, powerful, skillful centre forward. His goals will keep coming and I can see him becoming a crowd favourite. People have been asking “is Giroud good enough for Arsenal?” I would say the correct question right now is “are Arsenal good enough for Giroud?”
  • Arsene Wenger, time and again, has shown himself capable of getting himself and his team out of a hole. At the start of last season we had fallen into a pit as dark, deep and smell as John Terry’s soul, but still we hauled our way out of it and ended up finishing third. At the moment we the fans are as adrift as the team, but a few good results can change everything.
  • We entertain the Teetering Horseparts next weekend and they are often eager to help kick start our season. A good win over the forces of darkness and there will be smiles all over N5.
  • The financial situation at Arsenal is looking a lot brighter: apparently the club has secretly invested in a black scarf manufacturer just off Drayton Park and the shekels are rolling in.

Right. I know that lots of you will want to have a moan about all things Arsenal today (nothing wrong with that), but how about this for an idea: before each comment containing criticism (of the club, of players, of the manager, of the coaching, of the fans), why not start with one positive or hopeful thought. One sliver of something positive that you can see in among the murk of despondency.

It might cheer you up. And it might cheer the rest of us up too.

RockyLives   


Two nil and we……..Forgot how to defend ……. again!

November 11, 2012

Is a match report going to make you feel better? No, I thought not, me neither. Is there any point in revisiting a game where we were 2-0 up after twenty-three minutes and then contrived to throw that lead away by the 40th minute going in to the break 2-2.

Were we undone by two amazing bits of skill from Fulham for their two goals? Well, it would be a comfort to say yes, but no is the answer to that too. Seriously poor defending and static zonal marking handed Fulham their two goals and it’s not the first time we have delivered these kind of gifts to opposing teams.

It’s seven weeks since, against the run of play, we allowed Lescott to nod home from a corner for Man City and take the lead and in those seven weeks we have conceded too many goals in a similar fashion. I can’t see any evidence of work having been done on the training ground to stem the tide, surely in seven weeks some improvement should be visible. Even if we just worked on defending corners there would be some improvement? Why are we still making the same errors?

I have always firmly believed in the we’re gonna score one more than you’ ethos, the gung ho approach, the ‘we don’t really have to care about defending because we’re a full on attacking team’  but holy cow, the time must have come to put some practice in on the simple things. Go back to basics, think about defending and what it means for the team, stop stroking the ball around in front of our goal mouth when a row Z is needed, stop an attack high up the pitch, don’t wait until the opposition are bearing down on us, take a yellow card for the team.

It’s time to take defending seriously even if that means more bore draws, the foundation of a great team cannot be built on such repetition of errors, they have to be stamped out for this team to have any credibility.

Anyway rant over about the defending, there were some good points to share with you.

Theo started the match and although I have slated his inability to be the footballer I hoped he would be, I do think he’s getting close to that now …………. I’m still hoping he’ll stay. He whipped in a fine corner for Giroud’s first goal and his lofted cross for Giroud’s second was sublime, in addition he made sure he was there when Giroud’s attempt hit the post.

Giroud is impressing me now, he works really hard to get his head on whatever he can and today he could have scored a hatful. How must he feel finally getting the ball in the back of the net and then to be part of a team that throws a lead away?

When Fulham scored their third the ground went nuts. It felt like ages between Berb’s penalty and Giroud’s goal to make it 3-3 but I’ve just seen it was only 2 minutes. From then on we had our tails up and the supporters played their part but time was running out. A dubious hand-ball decision gave us a penalty in the 4th minute of extra time – who would take it? Arteta stepped up and Schwarzer saved. It was not to be.

Throwing away two two goal leads in the space of four days is a disgrace for a so-called top team and so even if Arteta had scored the penalty I would feel the same about the defending. Although I have to say it was a bit of a bonus being two up in the first place.

There are so many things not going right for this disjointed, unbalanced team. Playing football can’t be this difficult, what is making it so difficult for them? Other teams with less ability than ours manage to play football, to hold onto leads, to string passes together and to look like they’re enjoying it. Come on Arsene, sort it out please or hand the reigns over to someone else.

Over to you all now, if anyone wants to supply some player ratings I’ll be happy to add them on.

This is what Arsène had to say about the game.

Written by peachesgooner