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Monday, December 19, 2005

Three elements that Arsenal need to be back to their best

Chelsea's well-drilled full team beat a somewhat makeshift/experimental 4-5-1 Arsenal team.

Given this context it is not a surprise that Arsenal lost. In particular, Arsenal's defence had three players out of their regular position, and it was the lack of expertise in new positions that proved costly for both conceded goals.

Up to Chelsea's goal I felt positive about the Arsenal performance. Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb really dug in and matched up well with their more experienced midfield opponents. Toure was excellent doing the work of two players as he charged up and down the whole of the right flank. Senderos was going toe-for-toe with Drogba (an experience which will do him a lot of good). And RVP struck a lovely goal only for the linesman to incorrectly flag it offside (I really like his fighting attitude which again was evident yesterday).

Considering the relative inexperience of our team I was very happy with what I was seeing.

But Robben's goal hit our confidence, and gave Chelsea licence to fully concentrate on what they do best: stop the opposition. Chelsea know how to defend a lead and our experimental 4-5-1 was simply not grooved enough to comeback. Lauren's mistake followed by Joe Cole's superb finish merely confirmed that it was not going to be Arsenal's day.

But this fact does not mean that Arsenal are in terminal decline as some may be tempted to think. There are three elements that Arsenal need to be back to their best, and they can be activated in the short-to-medium term.

First, Arsenal seriously miss Cole/Clichy. Our defence is consistently leaking goals and it comes through not being able to pick our most experienced, well-drilled, 49ers defence of Lauren/Toure/Campbell/Cole. Getting Cole back is number one on my wish-list, and apparently this will happen in just three weeks (can't wait!).

Second is what has been mentioned so many times on EFT: we need an experienced, powerful CM with leadership qualities to back-up Gilberto, Fabregas and Flamini. I'm sure Wenger's scouting network is scouring the world for someone of this calibre, and I hope that we see someone in January (maybe non cup-tied Ivory Coast international Didier Zokora from St Etienne?).

Third, our right midfield position needs sorting out. I really wanted Wenger to buy SWP so to balance out our attacking options which mainly concentrates down the left (an option that seems to have been left alone since Cole/Clichy's absence). Freddie is increasingly going missing, and Hleb is more comfortable in the middle than on the right (apparently neither he nor Stuttgart fans were happy when he was moved into this position last season).

So it would be great if Arsene decided to buy PSV's rising star, Jefferson Farfan. He can play attacking wide right (or up front) in a 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1. I was really impressed with him when Arsenal played PSV last season, and he has continued to impress in this seasons Champs league. I wanted Drogba at Arsenal a year before Chelsea bought him, and I see Farfan as a similar power-player with enormous latent potential that Wenger is expert enough to maximise.

On top of adding these three elements it must be remembered that Arsenal has some of the best youngsters in the world; one of the world's best coaches; a new 60,000 capacity state-of-the-art stadium as its home in eight months time, and a footballing tradition that rivals anyone in English football. Disappointed with recent results: Yes. Doom and gloom about the future of AFC: No chance!


Anonymous AV said...

good one my man

to steal from another post:

There is no integrity beyond the "win".
There is no history beyond the "win".
There is no pride beyond the "win".
There is no class beyond the "win".
There is only the "win" - and it is a hollow one.

It's a damn shame and I for one miss the beautiful game.

12/19/2005 7:56 pm

Anonymous sam said...

great blog, cheers

12/19/2005 7:59 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a fan of this website because it talks sense-no mindless emotional irrational outbursts like some of the other websites/supporters/'fans'. Although I agree that getting cole or clichy back is essential and that we need a central midfielder, i dont think that jefferson farfan is the answer to our right wing prayers. From what i've seen of him, he seems a little erratic, abit like boa morte when he was with us. Granted he is playing for a very good side and is an important asset of the club, but what i'd like is a ray parlour type wide midfielder. I know that sounds crazy, and yes, there are hundreds more talented than the romford pele, but with so many playing the 5 in midfield, someone like ray would be great. firstly, although he is never gonna score 10 and make ten, he is gonna secure that side-no easy goals would be scored with him protecting the right back. secondly, he would act as the third midfield man and tuck in to help combat the three in the middle. thirdly, he would be invaluable in away games with his attitude and work rate. To be honest, i dont know that many players who fill that criteria, maybe only gerrard and gattuso, and even then i cannnot see them joining us. I think if we had a ray parlour type player, and some decent referees, we would have picked up at least 7 points in the last 3 games.

12/19/2005 9:13 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Good article, T. I can't add to it as most has been said well, the relief when either Clichy or Cole returns is an understatement. Flamini and Fabregas can play together in certain matches except for those that require good strength and ruggedness. PV could handle those matches, Silva too, why their names are mentioned in regard to the Arsenal central midfield.

Silva and Fabregas is like a holding and an attacking midfield. Fabregas is a good working centre as opposed to a sturdy battler like Parlour. But other than that, if someone like PV was playing, that midfield could have been thriving much better, RVP and Henry would be scattering around onto passes.

Don't think you can call Arsenal a crisis. It's a sticky moment and like a storm one needs to know how to navigate well to ride it. At the moment Arsenal want more resolve to get that win back again, and with Charlton away, the chances are looking at an away win. No disrespect to Charlton fans but if Henry and RVP get a whiff of a chance once too often, particularly after Sunday, it could well be another home hammering at The Valley.

I notice a number of league games will be played on the Tuesday or Wednesday in the new year, which can make a difference between those mentally suitable to the weekends mostly or only, and those suitable to playing on any day or evening.


12/19/2005 10:40 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said mate.

Your posts have much sense and relevant material.

Thumbs up!

PS: Arsenal forever...we will be back.


12/20/2005 4:57 am

Blogger T said...

Thanx AV, Sam, Anon and Gooner_Doy: appreciate the positive comments!

Anon, you won’t get any complaints from me about bringing in a Ray Parlour-type player. I totally agree with your description of Rayman's immense contribution to the team in either RM or CM, and have long rued the day he decided to leave for guaranteed first team football.

Ideally I would like both a Parlour-type player and Farfan in the squad- and mix it up according to what was appropriate for the specific match. Recently there was discussion on EFT about Eboue as a possible Parlour-type prospect on the right of midfield. He is a power player who has defensive qualities and also likes to drive forward, so there is definite scope for development as a Parlour-type RM option. I wonder where Wenger thinks is his long-term position in the team?

Redsman, I hope you are right in your predictions for the Charlton game!

12/20/2005 8:49 am

Blogger BlindJak said...

Losing two left backs to long term injury at the same time would create problems for any team, as hurried shuffling round of the defence leaves players in unfamiliar positions which in turn leads to indecision and affects the confidence of the unit as a whole. Even though it might take a game or two for Cole to shake of any rust from his enforced absence his presence alone, with everyone back in their favoured slots, will lend a greater air of stability to the defensive unit.

From this base midfield and attack can feel more confident pushing higher up the pitch as they don’t need to suddenly pitch in defensively. And with Arsenals attacking options up front the goals should start to flow as they have done previously.

12/20/2005 10:22 am

Blogger Skippy said...

I was surprised with the 4-5-1 formation of Arsenal. This is a formation, which Rafa uses effectively against Chelsea.

This formation does not suit Arsenal.

I do agree with T, the players being out of position was costly. But in truth, they were outplayed by a better team.

12/20/2005 12:38 pm

Blogger SKG said...

There is no way that Arsenal are in decline. They were simply beaten by a better team last sunday. Their home form has been excellent and don't forget the ease at which they qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions Legaue. However I do believe that Wenger needs to hold onto Henry and Cole otherwise the Gunners may really start to struggle.

12/20/2005 1:16 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Good stuff T - and Redsman - great commentary as usual on the wrap-ups!

Ah well...what can I say...a game of two halves...we got suckered like we usually sucker OTHER teams...Chelsea really do have a quality line up...but also a bit of Lady luck as the 12th man. Henry hit the post...VP in the goal (disallowed)...Robben off one post...Joe Cole off the other...and both GOALS! Crud! Ah well...Wenger should have moaned about that instead of "associating the linesman and referee as being on the Chelsea team"!! HA!

'Tis truly strange that we only found this statistic yesterday...Arsenal have NEVER been beaten 3 times in a row until Sunday since a run! Credit to Wenger. His challenge is not to charge up his mid-field...but make his players comfortable with each other...they don't seem to gelling as well as they have in the past. In that case...stick a few more youngsters in...and work on something different...systematic...a TRUE Plan B...not a 4-5-1 copy that doesn't seem to be that effective.

All this losing is a tonic...and maybe it is something that Arsenal truly needed. It may force Wenger's hand to move in the transfer may help develop the talent we have already...what a fantastic challenge!

The real crisis would be not making the Champs that surely will push Henry to his limits of patience!

12/20/2005 2:01 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

sadly did you read the times we have to beat real to help pay back some of the loan,we really do have money troubles we owe more than leeds did so i can`t have much hope because also the squad is clearly not good enough.

12/20/2005 5:37 pm

Blogger T said...

BJ, I couldn't put have put it better myself!

Nturtle, your excellent analysis is definitely a bonus for EFT! I'm in total agreement with nearly all your points.

I differ slightly because I now think there is potential in the 4-5-1 to be a viable plan B…. but only with much more practice. Wenger tried the same 4-5-1 system in the 0-0 draw with Ajax, and I reckon he thinks that he needs to change the trad 4-4-2 to maximise the strengths of Hleb and Fabregas... and allow them the freedom of CM with a defensive minder behind them like Gilberto/Toure/Flamini/a new player.

I do see potential in this being a Plan B because Hleb is outstandingly creative and dangerous in the attacking CM position as I saw in both WC qualifiers against Scotland; performances which made me understand why his assists stats from the CM position for Stuttgart was staggering.

But of course this system needs way more development to gain maximum cohesion. It’s something to keep an eye on in the next few months.

Anon (5:37PM), I checked out the Times article and I thought it was quite misleading because it adopted a revelatory and sensationalist tone about the facts of Arsenal finances that has actually been public knowledge for many, many months. Arsenal is a prudently run club and have budgeted for transfer money to be available to Arsene, so my advice- for what it's worth- is don't lose hope mate.

12/21/2005 9:43 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Thanks nturtle, T, good comments from all. I have to agree with nturtle, I feel the 4-5-1 isn't Arsenal's strength, the 4-4-2 is. I've mentioned before that Henry needs another upfront with him, and engaging RVP on the left negated Arsenal's efforts. Promising youngsters aside, the midfield needs to be structered, its components lined and knowledged in their individual requirements. If the middle four use a central holding midfielder and an attacking one, they must be resolute in their task. The wingers engage the flanks periodically, there is little to no room for slackness.

It sounds a common blueprint for any team, but it was missing from Arsenal on Sunday. A 5-3-2/3-2-3-2 may have kept Chelsea at bay, the 3 centre backs and more than monitor Drogba, the wing backs move back and forth to assist the defence and attack when needed. But if you're using a 4-4-2, then the onus is a major push from the middle to assist multiple attacks, taking the pressure off and placing it on your opponents. This is what Arsenal had been good at previously.

The two central midfield positions are very pivotal, almost like a relay team in athletics. The baton is the ball; the central holder gathers the ball like the runner grabs the handed baton; then the exchange, the baton is passed over, the central holder releases the ball to the central attacking midfielder or a forward and then you progress further. Chelsea use Makelele or someone in his position to aid the defence, clear the ball, Lampard and Essien, or again players in their positions, utilise the ball to find either the wingers or Drogba. If it's the wingers, they then carry the ball forward to find Drogba or aim for goal.

But all is academic, perhaps. Arsene and Arsenal move on. Their priority before February is to grab points to raise up the table. Until he addresses the central midfield area with sufficient cover, he'll have to focus elsewhere in the team to get that push back again. There is little to speak of of Real until mid-January when the position of the team, mentally, physically and in the Premiership, is clearer.


12/21/2005 3:12 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Thanks for the feedback T & Redsman and all other posters. Um...I'm not quite at the level that you guys put into commentary...I just surf a lot of sites and put down a summary of what I think is right or wrong!

To T's point about 4-5-1...well, maybe it IS truly a good experiment to see how the mid-field can be more meaningful and flexible. I have no doubt that Hleb can get better...and especially with going for goal - he just needs to SHOOT! I do feel though...that it definitely seems to be a more flexible Arsenal side now with all this experimentation...but I go back to the point about teamwork - whatever formation...the team just needs to work it out...drill it out...and get the job done - that IS what Chelsea are great at. Look at how easily Ajax and Chelsea sis simple One-twos...and got past our back row? ARSENAL on the other hand...DONT'T do that very well... and realy on the skills of Henry and VP and other forwards to produce...instead of going back to basics. Maybe that is all it on the board...BUT forgetting the basics of HOW TO PLAY FOOTBALL!

I go back to the Champs league where GILBERT (giving you credit again T) just simply kicked the ball out of play if he got a WHIFF of an opponent in his own half. was boring...but...good basic defending (as mentioned previously). Lauren on the other hand...has Joe Cole at arm's length...and experienced defende he is...he botched it. Is that luck? Is that lack of concentration? Perhaps...but I saw Senderos also just BOOTING the ball out more against improvement to keep the ball in play or other silly things.

BASICS I call for...whatever the system.

I suspect Redsman that plan B might eventually turn out to be more liks a 4-4-2...but Arsene's problem is like Sven...everyone analyses it so is rather difficult as an outsider to understand what works! My own "guess" suggests a more DIAMOND mid-field works better...but this doesn't seem to have been tried yet. Fabregas as an AMF works good...and maybe Gilberto or even Hleb if he can get better defensively can be the holding CMF or DMF. it that we need better WINGERS?!?!? Pires and Ljungberg aside...who we we have!?!?!?!?!??!

Maybe one day on-loan Ryan Smith can do it...but in the mean time....Jaoquin, Torres...etc...etc...they all look good to me...ONLY if they help out on the wings...look at Robben...and you can see what I mean!

12/22/2005 3:44 am

Blogger T said...

Yep, the George Graham defence that Wenger inherited had the policy of "if in doubt- kick it out". I also noted Senderos doing this in the Chelsea match and praised him immediately for applying this principle cos it reminded me of Tony Adams.

Can't add to the back to basics policies put forward by you and Redsman- simply agree with it all.

Putting aside the first half- I was very happy with the performance of our youngsters yesterday. Arsenal have a new Niclas up front... Bendtner has the size, skills, and teamplay to be a really good asset for the team. Eboue also really impressed me, and 18 year old CM Alex Song grew during the game and I was really impressed with the way he would get the ball and shift left or right really quickly like Pat used to do when he received the ball.

I now see why Arsene made this comment about Song's game:

"He has sound tactical sense, he is good one-on-one and has great body technique. He uses the shoulder well [to shield the ball] and that it something you can’t give to a player."

Yep, I had my doubts about young Song after the few minutes I saw him play against Everton and Thun... but not anymore. Vieira made a great debut for Arsenal against Sheff Wed aged 20- and in two years time I back Song to also be making his mark for the first team.

12/22/2005 1:57 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Good commentary on the individual youngsters for the Carling cup T - didn't get to see it. Interesting to see Song get some credit...most of the time I see people say he is only average. Would be better to see Larsson starting though...I think he could build into a good "Gilberto cum Fabregas player"! Solid...calm dependable...unfortunately something that Mr Silva is missing this season.

Up front I don't think we can argue we have two good prospects. From what reports I saw...Hleb really DID forget to shoot when in sight of goal! HA!

P.S. Apologies for spelling mistakes on previous post! Let's give Charlton a good kicking to restore some confidence!

12/23/2005 3:48 am


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