Monday, 10 August 2009

Valencia, 4-3-3, the defense and the squad

So we lost 2-0 away to Valencia in our final pre season game, the result matters little, and there were some definite positives as well as negatives to take from the game. Our first half side looked solid enough, while the second half eleven did not look as handy, the most interesting thing we've seen in the pre season has been Arsene's deployment of the 4-3-3 formation.

I am in two minds over this formation. It is a good thing in the way in which it allows us to be a bit more solid in central midfield by playing Song and Diaby for example, as well as Cesc. Certain players are also well suited to the wide roles in the front three, Arshavin and Walcott being two very effective inside forwards.

One problem I see with it is that we have three excellent strikers in RVP, Bendtner and Eduardo and they all perform much better centrally, so with a 4-3-3 there is not much room to get the best out of two of them in a game. There is also the other problem with the 4-3-3 formation, this being that it can become a bit negative if you get pushed onto the back foot and then resemble a 4-5-1 formation.

I don't think we are very good at sitting back and defending, we need to stay on the front foot and attack is the best form of defence for us. Arsene needs to be very careful that we don't become too negative as we did against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi, we cannot win games playing on the back foot like that, we are not equipped for that kind of football. We cannot play with passengers like Adebayor, we need all of our ten outfield players to be pressing high up the pitch a la Barca, sitting back and trying to defend deep is just not something we can be good at with our current personnel.

Thomas Vermaelen is apparently very close to full fitness and may well play against Everton this weekend, a tricky debut no doubt. Again I feel a bit sorry for Johan Djourou if he doesn't start against Everton, he's got all the attributes to be a top centre back and he is still very young, he now just needs to get more games under his belt. I would be very pleased if Johan can step up this season, he has the potential to be a very commanding centre back for us for many years if he can work on his positional play while becoming a bit more aggressive.

You may have noticed the recent Poll on our blog, and it seems that a majority of people think that big Phil has been harshly treated by the boss in the last couple of years. The fact that the boss has brought in Mikel Silvestre in the same season that he left big Phil go on loan to Milan makes his treatment look ridiculously harsh.

Maybe big Phil would not be happy as a fourth choice player in the pecking order and that's why he left, the problem for me is that Arsene should have realised that Gallas and Toure could not play together, their styles are not complimentary, he needed to play big Phil or Djourou with one of these two. Silvestre adds nothing, he is slow, not commanding at all, and overall just not very good. I just cannot understand what's been going on with out centre backs over the last few years, and for me it's one of the big reasons for our lack of success.

I know I'm tedious but it's blood obvious why we have not done it in the last few years. We have been to weak physically in defense and midfield. All the great title winning sides have needed a few big beasts in there, we had Vieira/Petit/Campbell/Gilberto et al, Manu have had Keane/Vidic/Ferdinand/Carrick et al, Chelsea have had Terry/Carvalho/Makelele et al.

Maybe Arsene became too obsessed with the beauty of the game, but now he seems to have seen the error of his ways, playing Song and Diaby in a 4-3-3 gives us more strength in the middle, while the addition of Vermaelen may bring a bit more solidity to us at the back. Arsene remains quiet when asked about signings, I just hope he can add one or two more players to our squad that will give us a bit more strength in this department. It is strange but the unsung grinders can often be critical in winning the titles, the likes of Fletcher, Mikel, Parlour, Mascherano and their ilk may not win all the plaudits but they are often the most important cogs in the machine.


Obsinho said...

Has Big PHil actually gone yet? I have a feeling that there a few more sheningans left yet in the transfer window. I would say that there are agreements in place that phil can leave if and when lescott joins city, and at that point AN Other is lined up to join us.

That may be HAngeland or anyone else. I do think that something has held back the transfer, as Arsene does rate him enough to see that unless replaced his sale would impact the squad considerably.

We will see in the coming weeks, but I would not be too surprised to see Phil starting as 1st choice centre back come 2010.

Ted said...

Interesting comments on 4-3-3. I like the formation and think it would suit our players.

Plus Wenger has not played 4-4-2 for years, neither have most other top clubs. Most opt for a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 formation, which in many ways are similar, as you say.

So if the worst thing about 4-3-3 is that it can become a defensive 4-5-1, then I say thats a good thing.

However, I do take the point about where you play RVP / Bendnter / Eduardo in a 4-3-3. I guess RVP has plenty of experience playing wide left for Holland, which means Bendtner or Eduardo for the centre slot, with Arshavin or Walcott wide right.

Then picking three from Cesc, Song, Rosicky, Nasri, Denilson, Diaby etc for the midfield 3 does not look half as weak.

Anyway, lets see how we line up against Everton. Banter on....

Rhinogooner said...

The question that keeps circling in my mind is: Are we actually in better shape than last season?

Are we stronger, are we better equipped to compete?

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Drew said...

In response to Rhinogooner, I think from the beginning of last season to the start of this one, we are definitely better suited to push for a title challenge. The most important change we made was Arshavin; in him we have a player who can win the game by himself if need be, which we occasionally had last season, depending on Adebeyor's interest. So in that aspect, when we lost Adebeyor as a match winner, we already had his replacement. Take also into mind Adebeyor's detrimental effect on the locker room, and we are in the positive.

Toure's loss is along the same lines; we bought a replacement (who is unproven, but still) and removed another disinterested personality.

marcus said...

Excellent post. Your comments on Silvestre v. Senderos and AW's treatment of both are spot-on. I find it extraordinary that AW believes that Silvestre belongs at Arsenal while he's willing to sell Senderos. I still feel embarrassed whenever Silvestre plays for us. Rhinogooner's questions are also spot-on, and frankly I don't know how to answer them. Which leads to your other very good point that our defense and midfield continues to be weak, unbalanced, inconsistent season after season. I frankly don't understand AW's thinking anymore that he feels this defense and midfield are adequate for a credible league challenge. In 07-08 we launched a serious challenge because we had the best midfield in Europe---a midfield so strong that it was able to cancel out the weaknesses of our CD pair (Kolo and Gallas) and provide enuf chances for an unclinical front line to score lots of goals. That midfield doesn't exist anymore and I see no evidence that what we have now is anywhere comparable. That Diaby is still in our squad remains a mystery as he is a player who offers us only a few games a season to little effect.

Ted said...

Yet more interesting comments. wow its getting good on this blog.

The last decent midfield arsenal had was the invincibles in 2004, who picked from Pires, Ljungberg, Vieira, Gilberto Parlour, and Edu. Wow thats good.

The invincibles were amazing. The last decent midfield was the Paris 2006 final side - Pires, Ljungberg, Fabregas, Gilberto, Hleb (flamini left back). But that side finished 4th in the league.

I am not sure the 07/08 midfield was that great(although I agree otherwise with Marcus), where we picked from Hleb, Rosicky, Fabregas, Flamini and Gilberto. Theo and Diaby played a bit, but that side had a tilt at the title and finished 3rd.

I certainly don't see that its better than what we have now. Arshavin is absolute class and is well on the way to being an Arsenal legend. I also think that people get rosy eyed about Flamini's one good season, yet they hammer Song after a similar good season last year and insist he is not good enough. Walcott, Denilson, Diaby also now provide some experienced depth that we did not really have in 07/08. Plus youngsters like Ramsey and Wilshere on the fringes.

So, ever the optimist, I proclaim that this is the best Arsenal side on paper since the Champs league final side in 2006.

get in there.

Obsinho said...

Whether we are stronger than last year depends on how much you buy arsene's "one year older, one year better". It's the same midfield so it's not going to be worse, and could be better if some players do a flamini.

I think the pertinent question is whether it is better than our rivals? Liverpool - gerrard and the Argie are good, wide players are not. United - don't know to be honest, I don't wan tobeliege that Fletcher is better than Song nor Valencia than Nasri. Chelsea - the Bison is class & Fat Frank awesomely consistent, Malouda has improved greatly, I rate joe cole and Zhirkov is an unknown.

Mixed bag there.

Rhinogooner said...

Ted has been drinking the Kool-Aid. Pass some this way mate ;-)

Seriously though, we were 13 points behind Chelsea for 3rd last season. 18 behind Man U for the title. Have we gained enough and they lost enough for that chasm to realistically be surmountable?

I'm still worried about our ability to perform consistently. I'm also unconvinced we will be able to dominate the "lesser" teams or even to nick all 3 points when we need to scrap with the physical sides that put 10 men behind the ball.

I know we had an unbeaten run towards the end of last year. But too much of that run was draws. And we shouldn't value draws. We should look at draws as 2/3 of a loss (which they are). Yes, there are matches where a draw can legitimately be viewed as a decent result. But, generally, champions are the teams that win matches and draws are considered not good enough.

Consider this, a team could go unbeaten for a season by drawing all 38 matches, and still be relegated.

Ted said...

You make an excellent point about draws Rhino. Man Utd simply don't draw matches. They win or lose.

I know I am the eternal optimist but i just don't see much wrong with our starting XI, where if we do play 4-3-3 we will picking 3 from cesc, song, nasri and rosicky in midfield and up top 3 from RVP, Arshavin, Theo, Bendnter, Eduardo. There is some overlap there in possible positions, but if we get the blend right then it looks awesome.

I also think there is enough depth in the squad there. Denilson might play the majority of the games, but along with Diaby and the others we should have some decent replacements.

Last season was bad for all sorts of reasons, but we finished 4th and reached 2 cup semis. Its really only a shade of luck away from the 2006 season.

If we stay fit and get our first XI out for more than 50% of matches, then I see no reason why we can't do something next year.

However, as is always the case with us, Nasri and Rosicky are already out. Injuries are our problem.

For fucks sake - Nani bust his shoulder so bad against Chelsea on Sunday that they could not get it back in. Yet he is tipped to play through the pain next weekend.

Its that win at all costs attitude that we need. And that has nothing to do with player transfers or formations.

1979gooner said...

I think we are definitely stronger than last year.

Song has come along leaps and bounds, Denilson and Ramsey have developed as well, Theo has got more experience. Vermaelen will hopefully give us something a bit different at the back.

Eduardo (if he stays fit) could be a massive addition, remember it was not just flamini who almost won us the title two years back, eduardo played a big role and his injury was a massive hit.

I also think getting rid of the lazy Togoan is a great move.

Whether this is enough to overhaul the large points deficit from last year remains to be seen, it was 18 points as has been pointed out.

Manu are weaker, while Chelsea and Liverpool remain strong.

I think it would be a real achievement this year to get in the top three, top two would be awesome, title would be amazing.

Drew said...

I disagree with the notion that Liverpool remain strong. I think Xabi Alonso was an huge loss, along the lines of us losing Hleb. Though those players don't pad the stats well, both of them were vital cogs. Plus, now his direct replacement, Aquilani, is out for 8 weeks or so. I think they won't be near the team they were last season.

Watch out for Chelsea, though. No major losses and they added Zhirkov.

marcus said...

The point about Man Utd and their squad players is not whether or not they're better than or players. Clearly Denilson and Song are more skilled with the ball than Park or Fletcher, or Carrick. But what has separated Utd from us and other teams is not so much their world class players like Cronaldo and Rooney et al. It is precisely their able squad players who are just able to slot right in and do the job competently when needed. If Vidic or Ferdinand are out, Evans and Wes Brown are good replacements. Not brilliant, not world class, but competent, strong and committed enuf to do the job. All champions have that. We don't.

Uncle Mike said...

On paper, this is the best team in the League.

But you know the old saying: The game isn't played on paper, it's played on grass. (Unless you're a crap team like Luton Town or Red Bull New York, then you play on plastic.)

With half the injuries, Arsenal could have contended for last year's title. None of the other big three are noticably better -- and with Crissy and Tevez gone and Van Der Schmuck out for a while, ManUre is noticably worse off. Stay healthy, and this could be it.

Ted said...

wes brown is not a good replacement. he is utterly, utterly shite and usually gifts a goal to the opposition. jonny evans, fair enough, he is pretty good.

yes, united have a big squad, but i really think their success is down to rooney and ronaldo delivering on the big stage. their squad is strong enough to last the season but their key players stay fit and tend to deliver when it matters.

utd were noticeably worse at the start of last season without ronaldo and i think they will be noticeably worse this season. If you want to be brave, then manure are a good tip to finish 3rd or 4th.

as Drew said, Chelsea look strong.

marcus said...

Ted, they also have O'Shea who I think is also competent.

1979gooner said...

The main difference between us and United last year was leaking cheap goals.

Manu won loads of games when they played badly by the odd goal because they kept things very tight at the back.

Vidic and Ferdinand were excellent and a large reason for this.

I also think that the Manu midfield, and to a lesser extent the strikers, all help manu defend as a team.

You need to defend as a team, even one or two lazy passengers can screw you defensively.