Low on confidence Arsenal need Cole/Clichy return boost
When I saw the line-up yesterday I was happy. Wenger was sticking to positive 4-4-2, and as such had decided that we were not going to concede any initiative to Liverpool.
However, despite the positive set-up, Arsenal played on the back-foot throughout the match. The reason for this, as I see it, is that Arsenal have lost a lot of belief in their ability to win. The confidence to attack Liverpool and impose their will on them was not there. It was so palpable that the confidence quickly sapped from me as I watched the match.
The main causes for a low-on-confidence Arsenal is the negative accumulation of defeats and injuries, the loss of form of established players, and the (often-enforced) instability of team selection. And I reckon that the belief is now so low that it needs something great to happen soon for Arsenal to get them back on the right path of confident, consistent, winning football.
At this bad time for Arsenal I recall the saying used by Benitez when he first arrived at Liverpool: sometimes a small change can bring big results.
I agreed with this when I heard Benitez say it, and I think- maybe optimistically- that it can be applied to Arsenal right now.
For me, the small change required for Arsenal in the short-term is the return of Cole and Clichy at left back. Firstly, it will end the huge weakness of having non-specialist (and aside from Cygan) highly inexperienced youngsters occupying the left hand side of our defence. Greater confidence in the defence will be a good foundation for regaining a winning belief.
But much more than that, everyone who has watched Arsenal over the past five years know that Arsenal's main avenue of attack has been to utilise the highly skilled and fluent combo of Cole or Clichy/Pires or Reyes/Henry down the left hand side. In the absence of Cole/Clichy, this very reliable and big strength of the Arsenal game has been in total shut-down. And it's been a hard four months watching Arsenal play effectively without one limb.
Apparently Cole and Clichy have both returned to training this week. Their return can only bring positives to the all-round aspects of the Arsenal game, and help restore the confidence required to produce consistenly good results.
In the medium term, Wenger needs to bring in some experienced players to provide support to the young players making their way and the older players who have fallen off their form this season. I liked Zakora's attitude and competitiveness in the Ivorian central midfield at the ACN, and see him as a must-buy in the summer to add some bite and tenacity that the fatigued Gilberto does not have in his game.