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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Pires AND Ljungberg is not always the appropriate selection

If it didn’t come into Wenger's head after the Boro defeat, or press his mind after the West Brom defeat, than it must be now after the lame submssion to Bolton. Our midfield needs reinforcement. And no more still-developing youngsters; the players that come in must have good experience, size and strength.

A midfield of Pires/Fabregas/Gilberto/Ljungberg is not made for all-weather away games epitomised by Bolton away in the winter mud, wind and rain. Compared to other midfield line-ups across the country they lack size, strength and defensive tenacity. This was exploited by motivated and physically strong players like Faye, Nolan and Speed, with weather and pitch conditions that were also in their favour. This exploitation of our lightweight midfield is becoming the norm in away matches, and is the main reason why Arsenal's defence is being exposed as much as they have been this season.

I'm quite sure Wenger has pinpointed this as the main reason behind this uncharacteristic woeful away form. Post-match he said:

"The commitment of Bolton in the challenges was superiors to ours. We were beaten on pace and challenges and paid for it. It was a tentative and frail performance from us."

Vieira, Edu, Parlour, and Petit are central midfielders of the Wenger era that I would prefer to see combined together to play in the exact same conditions as the game on Saturday. They had the necessary qualities of power, presence and tenacity to really get stuck in and take control of games away from home when all the conditions were against AFC. The need for CM back-up to Fabregas and Gilberto is merely underlined by the Bolton submission.

Furthermore, Tony Adams remarked a couple of seasons back that there were some away matches where he doubted Wenger's use of both Pires AND Ljungberg away from home. His reasoning was that both are relatively lightweight players who are much better attacking than they are defending.

I agree with his reasoning for tough games like Bolton away. Parlour was excellently used as a right midfielder to give added security to the central midfield and defence; Gilberto was sometimes picked there to do a similar job in the unbeaten season; and Benitez has started to use Gerrard in this role to give added stability to the Liverpool midfield in away matches with positive effect.

I would like to see a similar-type player in the squad that could be utilised in the same way on the right of midfield. An excellent contributor to EFT, GunnerPete, called for Eboue to be used in this way before the Bolton game fearing the worst about Ljungberg's suitability for the game. I'd like to see him play this role tomorrow in the low-key Ajax match and analyse his fit for the role.

With every away defeat to lesser opposition it becomes even more acute that the squad needs extra midfielders with the necessary experience and physical presence for matches like Bolton away. Mourinho stated last week that he is not buying in January, so the door is open for Wenger to take advantage and bolster the midfield area for what will be a crucial second half to the season.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with some of your points.

Away games should be treated differently to home games.

Eboue, Toure, Lauren could all go a job in midfield to make it tighter.

In terms of going out and buying players I would leave that to AW. You dont always need a guy with experience to do a job as was seen with PV when he joined.

Gilberto is 6 foot and I think he should be strong enough to allow the ever growing Fabregas to play in the middle as well to add some skill and flair.

The wingers or the other two positions could be the likes of Clichy and Eboue, however we need to make sure we have enough skill on the pitch to get the ball to Henry and Van Persie.

We can't be too defensive and we have to aim to win every game we play, home or away.

12/06/2005 1:39 pm

 
Anonymous Sam said...

When Pires and Freddy are on form they can both play wide anywhere without any problems.

The way they are playing now they are a liability at home...

Gilberto is just not strong enough of a player to make a difference in the tough games. He's a luxury defensive midfielder -- which says it all really. We HAVE to buy here in January.

I'd like to see Flamini play right in games like Bolton away. Think he could help out centrally in the same way Ray used to.

12/06/2005 1:55 pm

 
Blogger T said...

Thanx anon. I definitely agree with the point of not over-compensating and becoming too defensive.

Just like in the 1997/1998 season when Wenger used Parlour on the right to stabilise the midfield and allowed Overmars to fly down the left, I would like to see the use of Pires/Reyes/Hleb/Ljungberg down the left for all matches and a Parlour-type player down the right for selected away matches.

I don't see this strategy as greatly diminishing the all-round attacking potential of AFC, nor isolating TH and RVP.

12/06/2005 2:00 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you make some good points but totally disagree. Parlour, Gilberto on the right? no way. You can actually get wide men with both offensive and defensive qualities. Like Gerrard for example.
In the past we always had two defensive players in the middle, with Fab , that has changed, and Gil is only half a player in my opinion.
What I dont get is why reyes not is an utomatic starter, he is our best winger, wide man, pires is past it, he should not start many games and ljungberg simply never has been and never will be a topp class player. Reyes and hleb should always play when 100% rested and fit, fab should continue, and gilberto has to be replaced, now.

12/06/2005 2:36 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pires & Freddie are way past their best, and to be honest gilberto has not been the player that we owe so missed last season this season. I just dont understand why Wenger says youth this and youth that, but none of the youth he's spoken about has even broke into the team this season. I say after 4 defeats it's time to shake it up stop playing complacent players. and stop being a hypocrite when you say you dont look at a player's passport when you insist on playing Cygan at left back. Even Alan Hansen noted that. We've got nothing to lose now so why not play Quincy and give him a run, rest Cesc and put Hleb in the middle. THAT'S WHERE HE PLAYED FOR STUTGART and he was top assist maker in the German league ahead of Ballack. Play Senderos and try toure in the middle. If Wenger's gonna be stubborn and not buy then show your team you mean business and start making expamples of complacent players cos at this rate Liverpool will be the 3rd best team in England. Admit it our squad is too paper thin for Bolton how weak is that :-(

12/06/2005 3:08 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats the dummest thing i have ver heard... Cesc is still a little boy thats where the problem is we cant rely to much on him yet we have to get someone to replace Paddy and Edu... Freddie is in my opinion our top winger.

12/06/2005 3:08 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So why is that dumb then, I never said Cesc is shit, he's tried harder than all our midefielders but he gets out muscled. I'm saying he's 18 give him a rest. Try someone else in other games. Hleb is 6ft plus and allegedly more muscular than ever which was the reason Wenger didn't put him in middle cos he was too lightweight. And to be honest with you running up and down the pitch means nothing to me if you dont do nada with it. Freddie's past it so get over it. he can sort pass well, cant dribble, cant cross, great finisher but doesn't find those slots like he used to so why play him. He's not that effictive anymore get over it. Hleb is 10 times better than freddie

12/06/2005 3:20 pm

 
Blogger BlindJak said...

T, is there any particular reason that stronger/defensive midfield is only being considered down the right side? Why not put one on the left as Henry often drifts out wide and could supply the office down this side that is lost to the more defensive wide man?

Alternatively could Wenger teach an old dog new tricks? I’ve seen both Pires and Freddie put their foot in, in the past, so why not make them aware of their defensive responsibilities and make them up their work rate?

12/06/2005 4:01 pm

 
Blogger RedsMan said...

I'm understanding that Gooners fans here see Pires and Ljungberg have had their bubble burst, possibly they no longer seem to have the legs to run up the pitch in all conditions. This is a make-or-break season for Pires, while Ljungberg needs to improve or most likely face spells on the bench regularly next season if he remains. I mentioned on EFT previously that Ljungberg needs Arsenal more than Arsenal need him.

Arsenal were less responsive to Bolton and its difficult to appreciate the cold weather made for much of the reason why. Do Arsenal need stronger wingers who afre prepared to play regardless of weather conditions, or do they need to play more defensively in winter?

To be honest, it seemed the whole team, barring some glimpses from Henry and some saves from Lehmann, couldn't respond on Saturday, not necessarily Pires and Ljungberg. Following on from their defeat at West Brom, with a run of 4 wins and a draw before Saturday, it is puzzling to understand why they couldn't respond enough. But I feel that come the encounter with Newcastle, further up the country, Arsenal will aim to hit back with a more convincing performance against a Newcastle side aiming to do likewise in front of home support.


RedsMan.

12/06/2005 4:58 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read somewhere the Fabregas has grown three inches since he joined AFC three years ago now. I am not too sure on the height of players as Keane was not a large lad but got stuck in as does Makelele.

You could spout the old adage of a British core and soft foreigners but that is rubbish.

It is just a question of finding the right balance of the team per game.

It is easy to say we should buy by could Hleb and Fabregas play in CM for AFC?

I also think the back four needs to be more secure and having a proper left back will help, any news on Ryan Garry?

Perhaps Gilbert will get a game against Ajax or Lauren play LB and Eboue RB.

12/06/2005 5:22 pm

 
Blogger T said...

BJ, you raise a good question: why the right hand side and not the left? Overmars and Pires has been bombing up and down the left for nearly eight years now and Arsenal have become settled with concentrating on this wing with the support of the attack-minded Cole, and Henry also drifting across to this side. In other words this Arsenal team will need a culture change (and shock!) to put someone defensive on the left and concentrate attacks down the right.

I'm really interested by the commentator who said Hleb has bulked up during his lay-off. He has the tenacity to get stuck in and graft, and playing in Belarus and Germany is excellent grounding for playing at some of the less hospitable away grounds.

He is still primarily an attacking player so I don't see him replacing Gil. He could be the answer for the right-hand side?

Fabregas is fantastic. But he is only 18 and could do with more tenacious midfield support away from home and that's why I remember Tony Adams statement about not playing both Freddie and Robert at the same time for some matches because they are far more attack-minded than defence minded.

BJ, I agree that Wenger must remind them of their defensive responsibilities, and they have carried them out over the years. But the Bolton example highlights that someitmes its better to sacrifice one of them for someone who is more accomplished at supporting the CM in a defensive mode.

Redsman, IMO Arsenal need more strength and tenacity in midfield when they are presented with winter conditions like last Saturday: wind, rain, mud; plus a physically strong and motivated oppostion.

Last anon, I like your suggestion about Gilbert getting some champs league experience. He is a right back that I think has a big future.... and is in the squad for 2mo's game. You won't get any diagreement with me that any of Senderos/Gilbert/Lauren should at LB. Sadly I think Garry is injured again?

12/06/2005 6:17 pm

 
Blogger T said...

Good quote from Wenger analysisng the Bolton defeat from the Guardian today:

"We have opted for a very technical side. I agree we lost the [Bolton] game because our performance was not good enough; especially our resilience was not good enough. But it is not just [down to] the natural structure of the team: it lacks a little bit of physical power."

I like this analysis a lot not just becuase it agrees with mine!, but seriously, it shows that Wenger has recognised the problem. To solve a problem you have to first recognise it... so as Arsene has achieved this first step, I look forward to seeing what he does with the equally important next step: what will he do to solve it.

I have faith in Wenger to get it right. He loves analysisng football and eight successive top two finishes proves that he is adept at finding solutions.

12/07/2005 11:25 am

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says.....Some very interesting and reactive articles above. All because of our disgust regarding our performance, (lack of) at Bolton.

It is easy to allow others to sway your thoughts with logical suggestions, but it must never let us accept the blinding obvious, and that is, the same point I made last week.......defensively, we are poor. All we have to remember is, how we felt when Arsene arrived, and started improving our midfield & forward play...so much so, we took over the mantle of the best footballing side in the UK and possibly Europe. This mantle started to tarnish, when first we lost Bould, then Tony,and finally Dixon. All were products of the great George Graham / Howe, partnership. Arsene had years in which to buy & groom, talented players from all over, inc the UK, to take over the role of defensive stablity.....AND HE DID NOT DO IT !

I love Arsene to death for what he has done for our club, but he will not recognise, that without a sound base to build on, your house will fall. Under George & Arsene (at the begining) we never lost the BIG matches, and thats why they all feared us. Just think back to recent years, and note how manty points were lost because of amateur defending and I mean from the midfield backwards.

What is the answer ? Well, I have had a go at suggesting, but I also know it would do no good at all as AW does not listen to others re; his team. I also fear that he has become bloody minded ie; After all we have seen since AC & GC, were injured, and after the insulting performances of Cygan plus several others, Arsene today states " Cygan was not to blame, I thought he played well " and then " my squad is good defensively " ??????? What game was he watching, What defence was he watching, and does he know we lost to four very poor teams ?

Last year we handed over our title & were chucked out of the European Cup, because of childish defending, after our forwards had given us a great start..who was bought in to stem this breach? No one.

That says it all to me, and reading between the not so thin lines, I understand him to say that ' I am not going to change a thing, because I cannot be wrong ' This is now my biggest fear ie; our trust is being missused, and we cannot do anything about it.

I just hope the stiffs do themselves proud tonight, and we dont get stuffed Saturday as I fear we will.

12/07/2005 2:27 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi 't' its nice to get our views recognised but you dont have to print mine three times ? The final version seems to be correct.

regards

GunnerPete

12/07/2005 2:30 pm

 
Blogger T said...

Thanx GunnerPete- analytical stuff as ever.

I have always figured that as Arsenal have an attacking policy under Wenger- including the full-backs- that our defence was always going to be less stable than under Graham.

But at present, with the departure of Vieira and Cygan frightening the rest of his defensive partners, the defence is looking very shaky and increasingly exposed which has ramifiactions for the whole team.

A defence of Toure/Senderos/Campbell/Cole is one I'd like to see when Ash comes back and Toure returns from the African Nations Cup. This defence has power, height, pace, and in Cole and Toure has two defenders who are comfortable in possession and driving forward. I've already mentioned my appreciation of Lauren, but I think Wenger must now seriously consider that all of Toure, Senderos and Campbell should now be starting for the defensive stablitiy of the team. Senderos needs first team action to improve and simply it is getting to the stage that both him and AFC are losing out if he is not in the team.

I see no reason why Lauren can't revert to midfield and give the squad added depth in this area.

12/08/2005 10:44 am

 
Anonymous Nturtle said...

Interesting points as usual. What I was encouraged with was the Champions League "experiment" by Wenger. Even though on the whole we played poorly, the back seemed rather stable, and GILBERT (yes T - you said it first) didn't do too badly. Senderos badly needs more matches to improve, even though he did quite well - but a pass INTO your OWN six-yard box is suicide...give a corner like any good defender!

Hleb is not quite fit I feel, and Quincy showed his immaturity. Larsson I felt was competent though...and it would be great to see more of him, better than the "flying" Flamini who ALWAYS misses tackles...his ferociousness doesn't make up for lack of anticipation...that is NOT physical power...but stupidity.

VP is still in the zone and showed us why he is a starter now. Reyes needs to stay on his feet more and learn from VP.

But back to the mid-field...Cesc certainly didn't seem out-muscled...but the possesion was lost too easily to Ajax. Larsson in contrast, like Gilbert...just played sensibly...not spectacularly...and di the job...the senior players seem to forget this rule of thumb I think, especially against teams like Bolton. If YOU have the ball...you have a chance...otherwise..kaput...bye bye!

Ljungberg has not been very fit, but both he and Pires still give us those memorable 1 nil wins. Maybe it IS true that together they don't seem to work, and thus Reyes and Hleb need to work harder to get in there as starters.

12/08/2005 2:45 pm

 
Blogger T said...

Always enjoy your excellent analysis Nturtle! I find myself agreeing with everyting your said.

Like the description of 'flying Flamimi'. He flew into some tackles that made me think that he was determined to show Arsene that he didn't lack 'frailty'!

Flamini reminds me of the George Graham type midfielder of the early nineties like Ian Selley or a young Parlour: all action, flies in to tackles, a bit rushed and a bit hurried. He could turn into the 'mature Parlour' with more composure: I'm sure he'll develop this with more time on the pitch and increased coaching.

12/08/2005 7:43 pm

 

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