Friday, 31 October 2008
Emotions are running high in many peoples veins since the 4-4 draw against Spurs and I've even seen some people calling for Wenger to resign. Its time for a reality check children - Arsenal are 3rd in the league, have 20 points from 10 games and only Man City have scored more goals than us. If you are ready and willing to sack Wenger for this then you are an idiot. Plain and simple.
The anti-dote to frenzied xenophobic ranting is some good old time analysis, so yes Gooner fans, its time for Uncle Ted's tactical chalkboard.
So lets look at some of the evidence. The current Arsenal team scores a bag load of goals from all over the pitch (a staggering 44 goals from 16 outings in all competitions), but we also concede more than a few (13), especially from the middle of the park at the moment. Still, that is an impressive goal difference. Unlike a few seasons ago, we don't let in that many from crosses, although we are hardly rock solid at defending set pieces. Instead, we seem to give opponents a bit too much time and space in the middle of the park outside our box, especially in the second half of games at home in the Emirates when we are usually pre-occupied in attacking.
This should not be surprising when you look at AW's current first choice for the outfield players, especially the current front six of:
Walcott Denilson Cesc Nasri
Concentrating on the shape of that team, it plays as two genuine wingers (Nasri coming inside a bit), with Cesc coming forwards and Denilson holding back a bit, but also with a licence to get forwards. Interestingly, the trouble maker as far as the refs are concerned is Cesc (3 yellow) with Denilson on 2 yellows.
Its a very different shape to last season, when Arsene's first choice in the early part of the season was something like:
Hleb Flamini Cesc Rosicky
How we used to moan about the lack of width in that midfield, with Hleb and Rosicky both wide-midfielders who play centrally for their countries. Any real width we had came from the full-backs, and from Walcott playing later on in the season. Plus Flamini did not get forwards very much, which gave Cesc a free role to go and attack.
Its also a world away from the midfield that played for the second half of the season in the Invincibles of 2004, which looked like this:
Gilberto Edu Vieira Pires
Bloody hell that was a tough midfield to play against. Edu came through after Christmas when Ljungberg was injured and forced Gilberto to play out wide, with Lauren on the overlap. But there was absolutely no room for the opposition to play with Edu, Vieira and Gilberto ready to break them at any moment. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Invincibles were equal measures of strength and skill. Vieira would have more cards by October than the entire present team does. At the moment, we are all skill and virtually no strength at all.
So it seems to me that the answer is quite simple. In fact, its blindingly obvious and we have been saying it for months - we are weaklings in midfield. The problem is that I don't think its as easy as saying "go and sign a Makele type player to protect the back four". If there were any good ones available, then I'm sure that AW would have signed them. And for all you Alonso fan club members out there - he is not a good defensive midfielder.
Instead, the change of tactics for us this year is playing with two wingers in Nasri and Walcott, which creates an enormous amount of space for the two centre midfielders to cover. Its a hell of an ask for anyone.
If we want to tighten up in midfield, then unfortunately one of Nasri or Walcott has to sit on the bench, so that Song or possibly Eboue or Diaby can play in a tighter midfield and give us a less attacking shape. Thats a bitter pill to swallow.
The reason why AW won't to that unles he has to is because Walcott and Nasri are so damn good. But make no mistakes, this is the most attacking Arsenal side of all time. We make Kevin Keegan's Newcastle side of 1996 look amateurs at the "all attack / no defend" game.
So button down the hatches and get ready for more 4-4 scorelines. Its the best footballing entertainment you can buy.