I was angry about the way we played in Anderlecht game. To give away a 3 goal lead by committing too many to attack and then to lose all defensive cohesion and shape when still in front at 3:2 was irresponsible and amateur.
I was apoplectic 5 days later when we managed to take the lead in a close game against Swansea and once again put attack before defence and threw away the 3 points. Had we learnt nothing from the Anderlecht game?
A week later we outplayed United everywhere on the pitch except where it mattered. I just felt that his dream had finally lost its way completely. We had played some beautiful football yet as in many times before we had been undone by the simplest of counters – another sucker punch.
All that I had read from quotes from former players and those who had worked with Arsene was that he was an attacking manager and did not put great emphasis on preparing his teams to play against the strengths and weaknesses of a particular opposition.
Like many, I had accepted that he would not change. Pragmatism did not feature in his vocabulary. It was his way only.
But then came the Dortmund game. From my elevated position I could see the shape of the team and it was immediately obvious that the structure was solid. Arteta is an important cog and will be missed but even without him, it was clear that the players were defending as a team and taking responsibility. It didn’t always have to be pretty, but it was effective.
The away game at West Brom followed. We were good to watch in the first half but our clever possession was not matched by clinical finishing. We missed the Ox’s incisive runs but still held our shape well as a team. In the second half, we scored what RockyLives described as ‘an un-Arsenal type goal’ and I later observed was the sort of goal we conceded more often than scored. We had delivered the sucker punch. We held onto that one goal lead, 3 points in the bank … job done. Yes we continued to probe forward but there were always sufficient numbers held back to defend properly.
So had anything changed or was everything down to the players selected?
Reports from some players surfaced about practicing defensive strategies before the game; does this herald a change in approach? GoonerInExile commented that “Flamster was rarely seen further than ten yards in front of the back four”
There was another difference. The manager who had spent the majority of the previous season cuddling himself on the bench with angst written all over his face was prowling his technical area and communicating with his players. Could it be that he had instigated a different system and was standing there making sure that they adhered to his instructions?
Like them or loathe them, Mourinho and Fergie play (played) as a 12th man for their teams. Their press conferences, the pressure they put on referees, the clever wind ups of opposing managers, their larger than life presence on the touchline all communicate a message to the players – I’m here fighting for you guys!
Now I know Arsene is far more cultured than to stoop to the levels of the aforementioned, but maybe we are seeing him fight back against the growing criticism from supporters and the media ………. and maybe he has changed his approach to the attack/defence balance. If this is true you could argue that the pressure he was under is what prompted the change … self preservation if you like. Personally I don’t care. I like what I see and as confidence grows we can express ourselves more on the pitch as long as we remember the basics of defending.
Has he had an epiphany? Has he changed ‘his way’ in order to provide a more solid defence? Does he believe that is the right thing to do, or is he just employing different tactics in the short term until the pressure is off? ……… Only time will tell.
A note on the banner…..
The banner incident is a disgrace and reflects badly on all Arsenal supporters. I’m ashamed and embarrassed by those who chose to display it. If I could phone Arsene up and apologise to him on behalf of all Arsenal supporters I would.
Written by DeVilles Advocaat