Wenger unbalanced again

October 5, 2010

In seasons gone by, Gooners would look upon a defensive set up by the home team on trips to the bus stop in Fulham or the Theatre of Snores, as a mark of deference to our attacking prowess, but more recently this Gooner sees this as evidence of how easily a pragmatic manager of a (possibly) slightly inferior team can beat a more talented and creative side.

Sunday’s match demonstrated that Ancelotti’s team (even though Ray “Butch” Wilkins was in charge of preparing Chelsea for this game this was very much the way Carlo would have done things) could adopt a cautious and slightly defensive approach to the game. This stemmed more from a confidence that Arsenal would allow gaps to form behind the attacking line which-if possession was conceded-allow the home team to break at pace, due to our tendency to build up attacks slowly, while more and more midfielders/forward players get involved.

While it’s true harking back to the halcyon days of TH14 and the pace he gave us is of little use when our paciest player has only recently started to develop into a goal scorer, there must be an alternative to the tendency by the team to dwell on the ball and persist in attempting to find the ideal pass through a claustrophobic central portion of the final third of the pitch.

Think back to the games at the Theatre of snores and our place last season against the original Manks – again the opposition played with a lone man up front and crowded the midfield, but more importantly they were happy to concede possession in midfield knowing that the tortuous forward progress of Arsenal attacks would not threaten their goal unduly.

Back then it would seem the obvious interpretation to this would be Fergie acknowledging his team couldn’t match our midfield passing, but as I now believe it is more that Fergie didn’t see us as having meaningful or effective possession that would be of material danger to his team’s chances of victory.

So the two teams who have consistently beaten us in recent years have worked out a way to exploit our predictability, however how much of this perceived weakness can be attributed to Wenger’s approach, if any?

While I don’t agree with some who say that Wenger does not place much emphasis on the defensive side of the game I feel there is some truth in Wenger being fallible to the human trait of concentrating on that part of a task that is most interesting to him. It’s this enthusiasm for creative midfielders that are small, nimble and technically gifted that has made the possession game a hallmark of Wenger’s team; however when a strength becomes so overriding it can become a weakness.

So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.
Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.
Lao Tzu (c.604 – 531 B.C.)

In my opinion great teams always have a combination of skill and power which allow a flexibility and adaptability to counter differing types of opposition and match conditions.

There is no denying when all parts of the Arsenal passing game combine and/or are allowed to combine by the opposition and/or referees the team is unstoppable however a saying I’m fond of “The bigger the front the bigger the behind” is relevant here.

This means that, for example, the more a person seems to be arrogant and has a lot of “front” the more likely it is they are in reality nervous and lacking in confidence and have the “behind” of self-doubt. With regards to our passing game the more the reliance on that one aspect of our game the more debilitating the effects of not working on our ability to win matches and play the game our way.
The question is firstly has Wenger actually presided over the development of this teams makeup so it is over reliant on a methodical and measured build up to attacks orchestrated by midfielders of a certain type?
If so then why has he done this? I feel perhaps the zeal to create such an identifiable playing style is being given undue importance.

Perhaps a little pragmatism from our no doubt deep-thinking manager would go a long way however having worked in Japan for a number of years in which he gained an appreciation for the oriental way of life and thinking I feel he may figure the solution to the squad balance conundrum out for himself.

Staring down the barrel ……. Are you feeling lucky Punk?

October 3, 2010

Why Oh Why can’t we ever have a fully fit first team when we play Chelsea? I am convinced that had we Cesc, Vermælen, Van Persie and Theo fully fit and firing on all cylinders we would win this fixture, without them there lies some doubt.

I believe that if the 4 missing players could each play 30+ games a season we would win the League. We have a brilliant first 11 (bar the GK!!) but  taking out our best defender, best forwards, and the best midfielder in the world is putting enormous pressure upon our capabilities of challenging Chelsea for the title. It would on any team.

Apart from the blip last weekend and that silly overtime goal at TSOL we have played very well this season. Fantastic, high scoring wins against admittedly moderate opposition should have given us great confidence going to the Bridge, but those two games have left a major doubt over the team, and Chelsea away is not the best place to go when confidence is not 100%.

Then there is the goalkeeping issue. I am guessing that Fabianski will play and I wish him (or Almunia) the very best of good fortune, however  ….. oh, I am so bored with this whole GK scandal. Let’s just use some of the shedloads of profits on a decent keeper in January and be done with it.

So where is the hope that we can get a result? It lies within the blessed feet of Arshavin and Nasri, and the combined strength of sinew and muscle of our defence. We all know the strengths of Chelsea’s attack, they have power and pace and have undone our defence too often for comfort. However, we have a shiny, new pair of CB’s who will be desperate to show they can be the equal of Drogba and Anelka (who in a just world would be wearing an Arsenal shirt).

Even without Cesc (and there remains hope he will play) our midfields cancel each other out. Missing Lampard, Chelsea look bereft of inspiration, relying on the lung bursting energy of Essien and the power of their forwards to create goal scoring opportunities. Whereas we have a wealth of creative players who are learning to stand up to the battle. I would start Wilshere who looks a special player; there are few creative MF’s who have his appetite for the physical side of football.

My main concern is Malouda.  He can win the game single handedly, and it will require vigilance from our midfielders to protect our full backs.  We have to defend as a team and not allow the vast open spaces that led to previous Chelsea goals, Song in particular will have to curb his attacking instincts.

My team (can I keep my 100% record?)


Sagna Squid Kos Clichy

Denilson Song Nasri JW

Cham  AA

Chelsea’s record of over 100 goals last season was phenomenal and a testament to their attacking resolve. They are a fantastic side and definitely the best PL team since the Invincibles. The work done by Ancelloti has been of the highest calibre – to take a succesful but dull, mechanical team and turn them into entertainers was superb. Let’s hope they are one season wonders!

To go to last season’s Double winners and leave with 3 points is a big ask, but We are The Arsenal and We are the Best ….


Can we dominate and win at Stamford Bridge?

October 2, 2010

Written by Smith14

In recent years our encounters against Chelsea have tended to be harsh lessons. Aside from the RVP inspired 2-1 comeback against Scolari’s outfit, it’s fair to say we’ve struggled. The time of our yearly examination is nearly upon us. I pride myself on being one of Arsenal’s more optimistic supporters and sincerely believe that we have a visionary in charge of the club and that his plans, which have so tested our collective patience, will come good eventually. Despite all this, I’m still absolutely petrified of 4 o’clock on Sunday.

Arsenal fans, and those neutrals that don’t seem intent on upsetting us, are generally treated to the most attractive Football in the League. When everyone’s fit, which admittedly is as rare as a loose pass from Wilshere, we have a squad which compares pretty well to the elite of the division, the elite of Europe in fact. There is, in my mind, no question that the likes of Cesc, Wilshere, Arshavin, Nasri, RVP and Chamakh could orchestrate the downfall of any side, on their day. The question is why don’t we ever seem to have our day on the biggest occasions?

Our problem is not ability. All summer there were arguments among fans about who we needed to buy but, looking at the squad rationally, Goalkeeper aside, I don’t think there’s great room for improvement. The thing that we lack is not players, its mentality. In recent seasons we’ve taken the lead at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, The Millennium Stadium, Wembley and the Nou Camp and been beaten or drawn on every occasion.

We have had periods of great dominance against the likes of United and Chelsea but occasions on which we’ve turned that dominance into wins are few and far between. Apart from the colossal injury list, which isn’t an excuse but certainly an explanation for a lot of what’s gone wrong in the last few seasons, our poor return comes down to mental toughness. The ability to see a result out or dig in to drag yourself back from a mistake. Add to that games where we’ve squandered periods of superiority, games where we’ve given away the first goal and gone on to be embarrassed.

So, do we have the ability to get a result? We could argue that the age of the squad was to blame and it was a factor for a few years but, by now, they’ve all been together for long enough to have experienced success and failure as a unit. The likes of Clichy, Sagna, Fabregas, Nasri, Rosicky and Arshavin have all felt disappointment in an Arsenal shirt. Wenger was right this summer when he said that age was no longer an excuse. There can rarely have been a team with so much experience at such a young age. The last remaining hurdle for this team seems to be belief in themselves that matches Wengers. The idea that they can truly live up to the talent in the squad and get results we deserve. I’m fed up of arguing that we should have got better results, the time has come to start getting those results.

On Sunday we will be faced with Terry, Essien and Drogba. We will need determination, aggression, skill and concentration in abundance. I personally think we have the Footballing ability to play them off the pitch. We must now prove that we have the self belief to make this count. The fact that Koscielny, Squillaci and Chamakh – all likely starters on Sunday – have yet to face Chelsea in an Arsenal shirt may provide grounds for optimism. They will not so readily recall being put to the sword by Drogba and, if they approach the game with the appropriate professionalism, the centre backs in particular could give us a strong foundation from which to play.

The central defensive partnership must not allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security by Drogba. Consistently he will throw himself all over the pitch, whinge and moan and appear to have given up the ghost. All of a sudden, defence suitably relaxed, he surges back and simply blows teams away. If Koscielny and Squillaci needed an induction to the Premier League, this is it. Squillaci comes with the battled hardened features to match a long career. His experience could be vital in this duel. Firstly we must frustrate Drogba, then we must stamp on him whilst he’s down, figuratively speaking of course.

Ultimately the onus falls on Wenger and the players to toughen up and prove my bold claims to be correct. We as fans can do little but support the side. We may not think that each individual is good enough to achieve what we want them to but as long as they are in an Arsenal shirt they should be backed 100%. A team with whole hearted and unified support will perform better than one who transmits its anxieties onto the players.

Let’s hope that on Monday morning we are celebrating a side who are becoming men, rather than licking our wounds. Honestly, I don’t think Win, Lose or Draw, Sunday will be as decisive as Sky will portray it. At the very least though, it will confirm our worst fears or make a bold statement that we are at least up for the fight.

Keep The Faith.

You can read other articles by Smith14 at  http://tbwttihs14.wordpress.com/