Sunday 10 January 2010

Everton - known problems highlighted....again

I reviewed the Everton game in full in the cold light of day to try and see just where things are going wrong at the moment, sometimes it's easier to see things more clearly when the emotional dust has settled. It is irrelevant whether we 'deserved' the draw or not, what does this mean anyway, I've never really understood. On the balance of play overall a draw was a fair result. What I think it is important to look at is why did Everton look so imposing against us and why did they create so many decent chances.

General tactical variation/Pace/Width/Everton. I thought that Everton would play the game very much a la Aston Villa, defending solidly with numbers behind the ball and playing on the counter. This was indeed the case and our game plan played into their hands, we had a lot of possession in front of them but didn't open them up often enough. Everton played very well and Moyes got the tactics spot on. The sad thing is that we don't really have the players to adapt our tactics, we don't have the electrifying pace in the side that we once had and consequently we are not as good on the counter as we once were. Look at our front six players and tell me how many of them have raw pace, exactly. Other than our full backs we often have no width and width is often the key in breaking down sides who defend with a lot of men behind the ball.

Basic defending. The first goal saw Osman have a completely free run at his header from a corner, this just shouldn't happen. A lot of criticism has come the way of Manuel Almunia and he is definitely having a shaky period, but a lot of the criticism coming his way is undeserved. He made a great save to keep us in the game at 2-1, and the abuse he's had from some quarters for the Pienaar goal is ridiculous. The fact that we have very few players who are tall and dominant in the air is a bit of a problem, Manuel should not be made the scapegoat for our systemic aerial failings.

Defending as a team. Everton gave our players far less time on the ball than we afforded to them. They pressed and harried us all over the pitch, they didn't give us time to settle on the ball, this was a stark contrast to the amount of time and space some Everton players found themselves in at times. Traore was caught out positionally a few times, no wonder he's a young inexperienced left back, but he had no help at all from our midfield. The Pienaar goal was poor, Traore was left on his own at the back for a corner, the other defenders were all far too slow to come back and no one covered their absence other than a very tired Samir Nasri, there was so little defensive armour for Everton to cut through, this was bad organisation and cavalier.

Lightweight in midfield. Denilson was knocked off the ball far too easily, as was Ramsey but to a lesser extent, Diaby was our only midfielder with a physical presence. Denilson just isn't a holding player, he cannot defend, he is very easy to drift past one on one, he doesn't anticipate danger, he doesn't track back and mark people tightly, it's just not a role he will ever do well. Nasri and Eduardo tracked back well, Arshavin didn't do much defensively that I noticed. The balance in our squad is all wrong, we have so many attacking ball players, but so few workers with a physical presence. Without Song this lack of balance is ever more blatant.

Players out of position. Eduardo should play centrally, he is always a threat in and around the box, he is quite handy when receiving the ball with his back to goal too. Conversely Arshavin is not a central striker, he needs to be in the inside forward channels, he is much better running with the ball at defenders than receiving the ball with his back to goal. As already stated Denilson cannot defend well enough to fill Song's boots in the holding role. Diaby is our only current player that can play the Song role, the problem is that you would lose him as an attacking threat.

One should always keep things in perspective, it was not a dreadful performance by any means, I am deliberately being negative in my analysis to point out where we need to improve. Everton were excellent and are a much better side than their position of 12th suggests. The thing is if we are seriously claiming we have a chance of the title this year than we need to do better than we did on Saturday. The striker shortage is a bit of a red herring for me, having RVP or Bendtner yesterday wouldn't have made a great deal of a difference, they wouldn't have had the service.

I see our main problems as our tactical naivety, our lack of ability to soak up pressure by defending solidly as a team and then kill teams with the pacey counter attack, our ability to only play one way. Our lack of defensive solidity is as a result of a complex set of factors, our midfield being too lightweight is a big part of it though. It will be very hard to remedy these problems in January, the frustrating thing is that these problems were obvious in the summer.


Leskov said...

I agree with most of your analysis. It reminds me the game we played at City Stadium of Manchester. But Everton had the control of the midfield (not exactly but we played into their hands).
Poor defending because of naivety. But a better result in the end. Not a bad result if we take into account that Everton keep improving.
Hopefully the other contenders will struggle a bit, especially if Everton play with Donovan, Pienaar, Cahill and Fellaini in midfield.

1979gooner said...

Everton have some very good players.

Pienaar has done very well over the last year or so. Cahill is a great all rounder, not only strong and a hard worker, but a very good goal scorer as well. Fellaini has done well too, awesome in the air but also seems to cover a lot of ground.

I was just thinking now, imagine an Arsenal midfield of:

Song-Edu-Cesc or Song-Petit-Cesc

The defence would get so much protection.

Obsinho said...

Equally imagine a midfield of Song Cesc Diaby - think of the goals we'd score.

That 3 would balance, especially with RVP up front to hold the ball up a bit.

The system suits the first choice 11 brilliantly, but it is harder to apply to the 11 we have out there now. The critical difficulty we have faced is to have RVP and Bendtner out at the same time. The target man makes the system.

Secondly, only Song has developed at the speed we'd hope. As a result we lack replacement muscle, and maybe that is a failing of Wenger in the transfer market. We maybe have too many small ball players - theo, vela, nasri, shava, eddy, denilson, cesc, merida, rosicky, Ramsey etc.....

We've never lacked technical players, but we've balanced it with brawn. That balance is lacking more than anything.


Ted said...

Some excellent points 1979.

There is also the possibility that this was just a bad day at the office. A cold and icy office that simply didn't suit us.

We could probably also assinate Manure's performance against Birmingham.

Arsene just doesn't do the idea of having a Song clone in the squad. On paper, Denilson, Nasri, Diaby etc all give him options. And he likes that.

Remember it took the stubborn mule ages to accept Song was a midfielder. That Flamini could play that role. To pick Edu in that position.

Its bizarre, but AW has produced some of the best DM of all time, but always with reluctance.

Fellaini was great on saturday. The best player on the pitch by a mile. Scott Parker impresses me a lot as well. 110% effort, sweats blood for his team.Either would be a great signing.

But its never going to happen.Denilson is here to stay.

MistaKen said...

Diaby is looking good. I can see him chipping in with at least 6-8 vital more goals before the end of the season.

Uncle Mike said...

Song-Edu-Cesc? Edu is only 31. Considering Brazilian teams aren't exactly rolling in dough, he can probably be had for a song. Pun not intended.

Petit, however, is 39. Which might make Spurs interested in him... Then again, Chelsea, who are to old players what Arsenal are to young ones, already dumped him years ago, so...

I'm glad to see someone defending Almunia. I think our biggest problem has been injuries. We weren't getting upset at him when Clichy was available, were we? We had a better defence then. We have other injuries, too. How good would Seaman have been if, to use the current parallel, we were missing the Dutch forward (Bergkamp/van Persie), the midfield captain (Vieira/Fabregas), and the left back (Winterburn/Clichy)?

Note that I'm using the 1998 parallel, not 2002, because I don't want to mention a certain greedy little twerp.

peskycesky said...

The titles there for the taking and im jumping on the 'sign players' bandwagon. We need reinforcements to mount a title push. A striker and a DM imo, the keeper situation can be adressed in the summer.

Liverpool are desperate for money, rafa said today they may not be able to keep their top players. WHy not stick in a cheeky bid for torres, about 30-40 mil should hopefully do its, apparently we have that in the bank, how good would he be with cesk, aa, tr7, nasri etc feeding him!

I do agree we need cover in DM. Again i would raid the prem. I think wenger could get the best out of Kompany if Shitty would sell him. I cant see him being too happy with PV4 going there, with De jong, Barry, Ireland also at cm ahead of him he will get less playtime then he would with us. He can play dm and cb, can pass on the ground and would be a good long term investment. Unlikely i know but torres and kompany would do it for me!

1979gooner said...

I was talking about Edu and Petit in their prime, as hypotheticals.

Looking at saturday's game Denilson's defensive work was terrible, he just doesn't have this in his locker and i cannot see why arsene persists with him in this role, it was no one off.

Nasri had a very good game, inventive going forward and he worked extremely hard going back, made a lot of good tackles.

The next few games will show is if Arsene has any way around this.

Getting Flamini back from Milan wouldn't be a bad piece of work would it?