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.