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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wenger got it right! Underlines the power of picking the right players in the right positions

The result was a nil-nil against a team that was taking a cautious approach. Nonetheless, Saturday's Arsenal team selection by Arsene Wenger for the match against Man Utd - and congratulations to them for being very worthy champions - struck me from the outset as correct all the way down the team line-up.

It shows that Arsene Wenger - as you would expect despite ridiculous media hyped-up hysteria that would want you to believe the contrary - is still an analyst to believe in.

Number one good move: Playing Alex Song at centre-back. For me this is the position that is best for Song and for Arsenal. For sure he can do solid job as the anchor Central midfielder - but for me he does not quite have the attacking instincts, nimbleness of movement and forward passing skills to be a top player in this position. Indeed, this was shown in the big games that Arsenal had against Man Utd in the Champs league - an inablilty to apply forward pressure against them left too much of a burden on Cesc/Nasri to launch attacks, who in turn were shutdown by the stampeding Fletcher, Anderson and Carrick.

Number two good move: Playing Denilson in the anchor role. Denilson is my player of the season. I like his hard working attitude and his ability on the ball. Why Arsene Wenger decided he should be left out for Alex Song in the Champs League semis is beyond me. Even a non-Arsenal fan but very astute analyst - Andy Gray - said the same in the commentary yesterday, saying that he feels Arsenal have lacked without Denilson in the midfield. So it was great to see Denny back in the proper first team yesterday - and again for me he had a very solid game.

Number three good move: not playing Mikael Silvestre. Silvestre has the unforunate distinction of having played in two four four draws this season - plus conceding another four against Chelsea last week. For sure these defensive nightmares for Arsenal can't all be pinned on Slivestre - but for me he is noticeably an unsteady centre-back who appears far past his best when playing for Man Utd at left back around six or seven years ago. Song is far better than Silvestre at CB - and must always be the preferred option if there is an available centre-back slot.

Number four good move: keeping Walcott on the bench away from home. Walcott is a superb player in the making. However, when he starts on the right side of midfield away from home the opposition team have an advantage. Walcott is not a natural midfielder and does not have good defensive instincts or ability. This means that the home team have a better chance of winning the midfield battle and getting in our defence. And if you are playing against very good opponents you are then asking for problems. Moreover, Walcott is an excellent impact substitute, as he has shown a couple of times at Anfield in the last two seasons. Putting the speedster on fresh when the game is stretched and the opposition is tired is always a positive move. Next season Rosicky - we all hope! - will be back. With him and Nasri well adept as solid right hand side midfielders, I hope Wenger declines to use Walcott as a starting right winger next season - and instead promotes him to the centre-forward line.

Number five good move: having a right midfielder on right midfield. Basically an extension of the argument above. Having Nasri on the right midfield tightened up the defensive side of our midfield and consequently the whole team had a better stability.

Number six good move: keeping out an out of form Adebayor. After his FA Cup semi final and Champs League first leg performances, I would have dropped Ade and have opted for the in-form Nicklas Bendtner to have started the second leg against Manchester United. Adebayor's demeanour is not good at the moment and he does not look to have a good focus on the game or Arsenal at present. Arsenal need eleven players who are ready to give their all with full focus - and with Ade in the team we would only be getting on 10 and a half players which is not good enough.

Number seven good move: keeping Diaby in central midfield. Please Arsene - do not play Diaby on the left wing anymore like you did in the first leg at Old Trafford. It just doesn't work against world class teams to play a gangly central midfielder on the wing.

Aside from these good moves which gave me confidence before the match on Saturday that we'd see a more stable Arsenal team there was one other move which is very intriguing.

Number one intriguing move: Keeping Cesc in the 'hole'. I prefer to see Cesc play deeper so he can get on the ball earlier from defence, take control of the tempo of the game, and pick out his incisive forward passes. Wenger said last month that he believes Cesc is better at playing deeper and gave reasons to back it up.

So why does Wenger persist in playing him in the 'hole'? Is it because he has someone lined up to play Cesc's naturally deeper position next season and he is trying to groove Cesc in the 'hole' position to accomodate this new player? Is it because Wenger has found out that Xavi Alonso would be willing to come to the Emirates if Liverpool agreed to sell him? Is this the core reason why Cesc is stil being played in the 'hole'?

I would find this move to be an exciting development were it to happen (with respect to my Liverpool supporting colleagues here at EFT).

Saturday for me showed what a difference it makes to get the team selection right. Arsene in my opinion went off the boil in the last month in terms of his team selections for big games. It was reassuring and very good to see him get back on track on Saturday.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

one - i dont agree with you on song. i think he is more than what u have said in term of attack and against manu in all 3 games i think he was one of those who stood tall.

two - I believe Denilson didnt play in the Cl games cos he was looking jaded. stats shows that he has played 50 games this season in midfield for a 20 yr old.

three - lets not even go there. not and never was a center back

Cesc i think is not back to his best and could be the reason he is playing up there

5/18/2009 11:39 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting analysis- AW has said for years that Song would be a CB, not sure why he was played in midfield - except as a last resort.

The return of Traore excites. If he has added a bit of power and aggression to his game he could certainly play left midfield, and left back - and maybe even central midfield as well.

AW has said he wants Vela and Walcott to morph into central strikes providing competition for Dudu, then I'd play with RVP and or Nik in the "hole".

Mozart left wing, Sammi on the right sounds good Cesc playing deep in central midfield is a must though. That's his position, end of!

5/18/2009 11:58 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...


New CB

Denilson/New DM



5/18/2009 12:26 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good analysis, but Cesc did not play in the hole on Saturday gainst Man U, Diaby played in that position. It may be that it appeared so in the team sheet but in reality Cesc played alongside Denilson. With the resources Wenger had on saturday the starting line up was OK, although he could have sharpened the attack by dropping Diaby to the bench and have Eboue on the right midfield with Nasri or Arshavin playing in the hole. Man U would have found it very difficult to stop those two, and Arsenal would have presented a stronger goal threat than they did on saturday. May be Arsene wanted to have at least one defender on the bench (a good move) as all others were injurred.

5/18/2009 1:43 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanks guys, good analysis in your comments.

2nd and 3rd anon's midfield is the one that I'd like to see too next season (minue getting Alonso that is) - indeed I think it would be a fantastic and effective one to watch. The best midfield I have seen of the third gen side was this at Old Trafford in a controlled one nil win way back in Sept 2006:

Gilberto, Cesc, Hleb, Rosicky, Ljungberg.

Basically it was one anchor-man (Gil) and four roving midfielders slightly ahead of him who could both attack, pass, defend and link up with great skill. It was such a complete performance to watch - unfortunately given injuries it was barely seen again.

Next season the same roving, busy, probing midfield can be revived again with what 2nd and 3rd anon recommended.

Fourth anon - I thought I saw Cesc take on the more forward role? Maybe there was a slight rotation in there which confused me - but I was sure that I saw Diaby stay back and Cesc further upfield. However, it is true that Cesc did come back deep on a number of occasions to pick up the play.

5/18/2009 4:15 pm

Anonymous GunnerPete said...

Hi Elite...I have just got back from a months tour of Canada & USA having missed the end to our season. It seems things ended as most of us thought it would, I even got the Barca / Manure score right! I lke this article 'T' and like some anons I can see things evolving nicely, but in my humble opinion, AW will shake up the squad and very quickly. Hopefully we will sit back and say why was this not done 3 years ago etc. My hope is that Vermaelen signs ( I have only watched him once and he was perfect ) he is tighter thatn Kolo and qicker than Gallas. I also hope that my instincts are correct and Aw sells quite a feq ie; Gallas, Kolo, Senderos, AdeB..this will reduce the monster wage bill and provide the cash to get the above + Hangerland or Upson. He will also try for Alonso but I fear Madrid will get him. But there are plenty of quality hard tackling HM out there. The only problem I see is the golascoring dept. Yes with Arsharvin playing in the Bergy role and scoring a lot, I see an opportunity for A N OTHER to com in to add to the strike force.

My joy has been watching our kids move on and up, and I hope we will see quite a few blooded this year ie; Lansbury, Wilshire, Ayling, Frimpong and Colquelin and several more. None will be out of place and all I firecast will be stars in the near future.

So go on Arsene show us what you are made of and go for quality change right now.

6/09/2009 12:34 pm

Blogger T said...

Hope you had a good trip GP!

I have not seen the Ajaz centre-back - so looked for a picture of him on the internet. What I saw was a very determined and well-built centre-back - and I was reminded of John Terry in the determination and focus I saw in his face. Now, if he is anything like Terry in terms of leadership and fearlessness I would be very pleased - and would definitely welcome him. I am also tempted by the prospect of having Hangeland - he is superb in the air and also a very intelligent defender: he focuses very well on taking up the correct defensive position. I had him in my fantasy team and therefore watched him extremely closely whenever I saw Fulham play - and I would also very much welcome him at Arsenal.

I think Ade will stay although I will not be displeased if he goes. For me his heart is not entirely with Arsenal because of the booing he received this season - and I'm not sure if this relationship will ever be properly recovered. For me this is a slightly uneasy status quo- as a supporter I'd rather have total solidarity with a limited player than fractured solidarity with a good player. I think Bendtner improved a lot in the last half of the season and he could be ready to move ahead of Ade next season should the Dane have a good pre-season.

Anyway, we wait with hope that Arsene has a few excellent signings up his sleeve. Have a good summer GunnerPete!


6/12/2009 8:03 pm


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