Debate: 6 reasons why we lost to Chelsea…

Playing good football, dominating games and losing them – it’s our new thing. We’ve gone from the 2-1 victory over United, remember Thierry & Van Persie’s last minute goals? From that to an increasingly alarming statistic of a massive inability to beat big teams. Most of the time, if not all of the time, we can beat the lower sides – but against Chelsea, United and even Sp*rs, we’re becoming less and less favourites and have lost more of those fixtures in the last 4 years than the previous 12 – correct me if I’m wrong. Throw in Man City, who were unable to beat last season, and despite the great football, where does that put us now…

I’ve had a couple of days to review the game and it’s clear that we lack in certain areas and after 7 games of the season, we’ve only managed 3 wins – and why is that?

Our Formation

Our formation is definitely a key component of how we play now – we’ve adopted the approach that Barcelona have so successfully implemented, a 4-2-3-1 formation. For me, this formation works in the build up, but doesn’t work in the big games. We cross the ball into the box and we only have one player in the box. That player is normally marked by two defenders, so the effect of crosses is significantly reduced. When we played with 2 strikers, we always had a better finishing threat – and this matters most when playing against big teams. Against Chelsea we literally played 2-7-1 – our full backs racing forward, our defensive midfielders playing in the same foray as the attacking midfielders. It’s weird how that works – or in the case of the weekend – doesn’t.

Out Played or Out Weighed

Yes, the classic out played or out weighed line. When we play against the likes of Chelsea or United – a lot of the time we do get out muscled by players – watching the Premier League review, we were 7 cm shorter and 8 kg lighter. Being out muscled by team who then can’t do much with the ball is one thing, but the likes of Chelsea have athletics and monsters of players. Essien, despite his foul on Diaby, was superb – say in front of the back four – was discipline and wasn’t bullied out of anything.

When West Brom came to the Emirates, and they outplayed us – why? Because we weren’t interested? We now sit 7 points behind Chelsea and that loss against WBA would have resounded into the Chelsea game. And although we normally out play our opponents, last season and the season before, we didn’t show up against United or Barcelona and when your game is based on quality football, to be outplayed and have no plan B means you’re inevitably end up on the losing side.

No Plan B

I used to laugh at commentators when they used to talk about the lack of a “plan B”. But this season and last, I am really starting to understand what they mean – a plan B could be anything from a change of formation, to a change in the style of play. But we don’t really see to do that. If things aren’t going right, we tend to sometimes put on an attacking minded player for a defensively minded player – Rosicky for Diaby looked pretty much like for like and whilst it has a momentary effect, it doesn’t change the way we played. Seeing JET come on for a moment at the Chelsea game, was a very good change, but a debut to a kid when looking to win a game, maybe not the best or most desirable substitute.

Our plan A has changed to include crossing – but our formation doesn’t really work with it. Our plan B is basically try harder but with a Carlos Vela instead of a… you’re getting my drift now…

Luck

Against Chelsea, we missed a lot of chances – the highlights of the first half we all Arsenal. Could Chamakh’s header have crept inside the ball – could have Koscielny’s header from 4 yards have nestled inside the back of the net – or would Drogba first real shot / backheely thing actually connect, and direct itself into the goal? Yes, you guessed it – we don’t seem to have luck with our games against big teams and we have to wonder why this is? Do the other points in this blog all contribute to the lack of luck…

Alex Song

Alex Song. for me, plays a pivotal role in our team. The Alex Song of last season would sit in front of the back four, would anticipate movement and would distribute to the rest of the team. He was clearly our most improved player last year. However, for me, whether it’s the lack of Cesc in our team, or not, I’m not sure, but Alex Song has been out of sorts.

He is not covering our back four and he is venturing forward leaving us exposed. It seems like he has given away more fouls this season than last and in addition, he is constantly miss passing or being caught in possession – don’t get me a wrong – I am a massive fan, and I know what he is capable of – but he is not playing to that level.

Injuries

Need I mention this? I better not, it upsets a lot of people… but Vermaelen, Cesc, Walcott and Van Persie… all injured, at the same time? Ouch… shouldn’t we have learnt about injuries by now? How much more can I say about them…?

So Arsene, there we have it – 6 major observations for you – I hope you have some sort of paper in your office with the same 6 things written down and how we are going to address them. That would be lovely…

Til tomorrow fellow Gooners, til tomorrow.

  • Berth

    Good one Dev.

  • Arsefan101

    So Arsene, there we have it – 6 major observations for you – I hope you have some sort of paper in your office with the same 6 things written down and how we are going to address them. That would be lovely…

  • Arsefan101

    I hope he does listen! I see what you’re saying and you’re spot on!

  • Kodjo

    @ Dev

    I am happy that you’ve also caught on what I have written in previous comments with regards to crosses; varying our approach work and the type of players that Wenger has gone for in the last 4 or so years. There is also 1 ingredient missing…personal initiative and individual brilliance which we lack even though we have a lot of technically gifted players in our squad. I’ll elaborate on this on shortly….

    Crosses:

    The key thing about crosses is having wide players who hug the by-line or having wing backs who hug the by-line and can cross unlike Clichy. For all his overlapping runs arsenal have not profited from his movements apart from dragging other players onto the by-line thereby making space for Arshavin to attack or move inside.

    Clichy and Sagna can’t cross. I must admit there has been a marked improvement in Sagna’s crosses. The thing about crosses is to know when and how to strike the ball…and usually a player has to make the decision on whether to hit the ball early or to go to the by-line and hit the ball from there.

    Either the ball is hit low and hard in between the defence and the goalkeeper, going to the by-line and pulling the ball back for the late arriving midfielder or getting the trajectory right by getting the ball to the far post.

    These are all options and decisions that have to be made. Unfortunately, we do not have players who can do all of this. The funny thing is that in B52 and Chamakh we do posses 2 players who are good headers of the ball and can slide into crosses hit low and hard. Our best crosser of the ball…in my opinion is Traore but he has departed.

    Individual brilliance

    In terms of individual brilliance we had Pires, Ljunberg, Vieira, Bergkamp and Henry who would always conjure a moment of magic to unlock tight defences. Also of these players could play tough and physical one-on-one by riding challenges and forcing the issue if need be.

    Currently, we do not possess players with the physique to do the little but important things. Take Vieira for instance…I noticed that when the going got tough, Vieira would move forward and weaken the midfield of the opposing team by luring the midfielders in tackles …he’d ride those tackles but it would be such that these players got booked.

    In the space of say 30 mins you’d have at 2 or 3 midfielders booked. Now this was key to the game bcos the opposing midfielders would think twice before making successive tackles… this then created space and gave arsenal that extra advantage in attack.

    Vieira or Pires would also play intelligently by drawing fouls around the 18 yard box which created scoring opportunities for Henry from the dead ball…unfortunately we do not have any player who scores frequently from set pieces…RVP is a poor man’s Henry when it comes to scoring ratio from the dead ball…but he is the best that we have.

    The conclusion is that Wenger has chosen a different route tactically and brought in players to play in his new system with little variation…and individual brilliance which is down to the player type. Maybe Wenger underestimated the effectivenes of the other big teams coming up with an antidote to our style of play.

    The key thing is to add a few players with different dimensions to the present system and not take this team apart bcos we are close to the top…but it is down to the little details…that extra 5% and slight variation in our game plan when we play the big teams.

    I believe Wenger did alter his tactics by playing Diaby high up to put pressure on Chelsea’s defence and midfield. This stopped the Chelsea midfielders from passing to Cole down on the flanks…hence the resort to booting the ball up field. Chelsea’s first goal was down to Squilacci’s loss of concentration…instead of leaving the ball 6 yards from where the foul is committed or holding the ball to buy time and organizing the defence, he elected to throw the ball back to Chelsea who promptly took the kick quickly and succeeded in catching arsenal off guard.

    It came down to small details and bad decisions.

  • Berth

    U guys aren’t making sense to me at all.Before you folks make analysis about players or tactics, its important to note the reasons behind our near success 3 years ago. Basically the team we have isn’t that much different from the one with Hleb and flamini. Its not that Nasri/Arshavin and Song cannot replace this folks its just that they don’t choose to. The Viera era is gone and so has the Flamini’s. This current team should define success there own way – there is no way in this world you can tell me this team cannot win the league or we need this or that. Maybe the gk department is a question, but then Lehman was a good GK and never a great one.This team has Wilshere, Fab,V.P, Rosicky and co. Hleb was good so is Nasri (just take a look at his two goals against Westbrom). Lack of self- discipline, solidarity and pro activeness is what I think we need.

    If our team had all those problems mentioned by DEV, we wont be near the top four.Yes we miss those things but we still have qualities that compensate for that. What the team needs now is momentum without disruption, (Injury or headlines) and that I belief guided us during the Hleb era and we need that now more than ever; momentum brings confidence, it makes defensive lapses go unnoticed and players concentrate better. Momentum, Momentum,Momentum; nothing is wrong with the players just a shift in perception is what we need.

  • Kodjo

    @ Berth

    Take it easy…true the Vieira era is past but that doesn’t stop anyone from comparing the playing styles, tactics, formation, results etc…

    Sure this team is trying to define success their own way by passing everyone off the park….the reality is that since the new team was put together we have not been able to crack the big teams….we’ve come up short most of the time

    The inquest will cont and for me it comes down to the little details identified in my previous comment…this team has not been able to make the right decisions at the right time or better still made the wrong decisions at the wrong time.

    How did the previous team beat the other big teams even though they did not pass the ball fluidly like the present team???

  • vitus

    i’ll say it again: we’re lacking spirit
    i would recommend AW to add good phsycologist to the coaching team, seriously

  • Berth

    Dev I have got a question for you and the forum – What do you lots think will happen if we take off Song and bring in Flamini or a very similar player who is aggressive and tackles properly in midfielder more like a Dmf Vermalean?

  • jat85

    @ Berth I agree with 99% of what you said earlier BUT where the 1% comes in is that in 2007-2008 we had a powerhouse goal-machine striker in Adebayor, and we haven’t had anyone come close to replicating his tally for that season since.

    If Song can get back to his form of last season then the 20+ goalscoring striker is all that is missing. Agree about the keepers and don’t think we should bring in anyone unless they are going to make a serious impact in that department (a 38 year old Mark Schwarzer-esque player does not fit into that category for me)

  • Sam

    Let’s thank our lucky stars we aren’t L’pool.

    The problem with our boys is lack of confidence. Even our new arrival, Chamakh, looks less & less confident as each game passes by. Of course, this includes the GK department too!

  • Yemi

    @ Sam:

    We should not be comparing ourselves with l’pool at this point, why not with man u or chelsea?

    Maybe B52 can add something to that attack. I just fear that he is a similar player to chamack

  • sevein

    We have just lost to the champions, worthy champions at that, on their home turf. No disgrace for anyone.

    In fact, I’m proud of the way the boys played and proud of the fact that Chelsea, the champions, completely changed their usual pattern of play just to deal with us.

    How often do you see Chelsea put ten men behind the ball, for the most part of 90 minutes, at home? I guarantee you will not see them play like that at home again this season.

    At the end of the day, in my opinion, Arsenal are the better side. Yes, I said it, better than Chelsea. BUT, and there is a but, Chelsea are miles ahead of us tactically.

    Obviously Arsene Wenger needs to learn how to beat Chelsea again, he used to be able to, but I really think a big factor in the defeat was the choice of players available.

    Don’t get me wrong, I hate to use injured players as an excuse, but we lacked a cutting edge and I have no doubt that had Cesc, RVP and Walcott been available we would have won yesterday.

    The game was made for van Persie and especially Cesc Fabregas. A game where you have so much possession needs a cutting edge. Those two would definitely have provided that.

    Things aren’t as bad as they might seem and Arsenal are certainly not as bad as people are suggesting!

    The title isn’t decided in October. True, we aren’t in the position we’d like to be but I’m sure we will still compete for the championship.

    Look at it this way, things could be worse. We could be in Liverpool’s position.

  • Sam

    @Yemi: because frankly we aren’t currently in the same level as ManU or Chelsea. We have consistently lost to them in recent years, and we have been in the bottom side of top 4 along with L’pool.
    Anyway, just looking for an excuse to feel a bit better.

  • cameron

    Oh the despair! The agony! The torture!

    On a serious level are things really that bad?

    Blimey the way some people are going on I’d have thought that the world was just about to end.

    Of course yesterday was frustrating and disappointing but take a reality check!

    We have just lost to the champions, worthy champions at that, on their home turf. No disgrace for anyone.

    In fact, I’m proud of the way the boys played and proud of the fact that Chelsea, the champions, completely changed their usual pattern of play just to deal with us.

    How often do you see Chelsea put ten men behind the ball, for the most part of 90 minutes, at home? I guarantee you will not see them play like that at home again this season.

    At the end of the day, in my opinion, Arsenal are the better side. Yes, I said it, better than Chelsea. BUT, and there is a but, Chelsea are miles ahead of us tactically.

    Obviously Arsene Wenger needs to learn how to beat Chelsea again, he used to be able to, but I really think a big factor in the defeat was the choice of players available.

    Don’t get me wrong, I hate to use injured players as an excuse, but we lacked a cutting edge and I have no doubt that had Cesc, RVP and Walcott been available we would have won yesterday.

    The game was made for van Persie and especially Cesc Fabregas. A game where you have so much possession needs a cutting edge. Those two would definitely have provided that.

    Things aren’t as bad as they might seem and Arsenal are certainly not as bad as people are suggesting!

    The title isn’t decided in October. True, we aren’t in the position we’d like to be but I’m sure we will still compete for the championship.

    Look at it this way, things could be worse. We could be in Liverpool’s position.

  • sandip

    @cameron lol

  • kevin

    After the loss against Chelsea, most of us would be wondering on how we could close the 7 point gap or more importantly whether we could win the title this year. It’s too early in the season to answer this question but its always in the beginning of the season where we set our targets.

    So what should be our target to win the league?? Is it that beating Chelsea and United is good enough to make us win the title?? Bcoz I remember couple of season ago where we beat both United and Chelsea but still could not win the title. Certainly, we have to beat both of them atleast once to show our true title credentials but with the constant injury troubles hovering over our team, we shouldn’t expect our reserve team to beat an always fit Chelsea or United team.

    So can we win the title even if we cant beat Chelsea or United?? And I believe the answer is ‘Yes’. It will certainly be difficult but its highly possible. A league championship is more like a marathon race, instead sprint. It doesn’t matter how you perform against specific teams or how good our start is. Its all about ‘Consistency’. And I’ve heard Lord Wenger advocate this word more than anyone else.

    So what is it that should be done?? We as fans always look at the points and numbers on the table to see how we stand, so I think its important to keep a certain number of points as our target.

    So how many points would be sufficient to win this league?? 80?? 90?? 100?? We have won the league with points as low as 78. Our Invincible season saw us winning the league with 90 points. And the Mourinho season for Chelsea have saw them winning by 95 points. But if we look at past decade of the league, you’ll see the the average points for winning the title has been 88. But overall, to be on the safe side, I believe that the target has to be 90 points. And the most logical and realistic way to achieve this is by the following numbers:

    28 6 4 90

    This is what we should aim for this season when we look at the league table.

    28 wins, 6 draws, 4 losses, 90 points!!

    Now that’s something I’d like to see beside Arsenal’s name on the table, regardless we win the league or not. Speaking of which, every time a team has reached 90 points in EPL, that team has won the title.

    Now, technically speaking, it is still quite possible to do this even though we had a bad start. But we do have some hard work and I think its time we start winning big against teams that we never thought we would lose against.

    First, talking about our losses. Having only 4 losses seems tough, especially when we are playing in the toughest league in the universe. But we have the history with us to go through the entire season without a defeat. So its possible by our standards. Looking at our current season, it is just 7 games in and we already have 2 losses – Chelsea and West Brom. So who can we expect to lose against in the remaining fixtures?? United at old Trafford perhaps and maybe even Man City at Eastlands. So that would fill up our quota for the loss for this season.

    Then coming on to the 6 draws. We already have 2 draws – Liverpool and Sunderland. It would have been nice if we had beaten Sunderland. But its still acceptable. Now whom can be draw against? The obvious ones that come in my mind are Chelsea at Emirates and United too at Emirates?

    I know many fans, at this point, will think that I”m being an idiot suggesting that we cant beat Chelsea or United at home. But just think what will happen if we have another string of injuries and then again face Chelsea or United with our reserve team. I really believe that even with our reserve team we can draw against Chelsea and United at home.

    That leads to the last 2 games to draw. Who do you think it could be? It certainly has to be some away fixture. We do have some pretty tough away fixtures left – Fulham, Spurs, Stoke, Everton, Birmingham, Bolton. Maybe even include Wolves in this list (you can never know what would be the injury list after this match). But we can only allow 2 of them to get a draw and looking at last year’s and this year’s performances, I’d say that the 2 teams would be Spurs and maybe Fulham.

    So what can we conclude from this? I’m not saying that we will lose against United at Old Trafford or that we cant beat Chelsea or United this year. All I’m trying to say is that we don’t lose our title hopes just because we cant beat these guys with our half of 1st team injured. We don’t need to beat them to win the league.

    As Lord Wenger would say, the match against Chelsea is never decisive in the title race. But what we need is ‘Consistency’. Its not the matches against United Or Chelsea that determines our title hopes, but rather its our matches against other teams that will decide. The way we will be remembered to win the league by beating Chelsea and United, the same way we’ll be remembered for losing the title by losing against teams like West Brom or Wigan or Blackburn.

    This makes me feel more bad that we lost one game to West Brom because these teams, however well they play, should never be allowed to beat us. I believe that even our reserve team have enough of quality to beat West Brom or any team from the bottom half of the table. We can’t do much about that result now but we have to learn from our mistakes. We had the easiest run in for the final 7-8 games for last season and yet we lost a couple of games in them.

    Now is the time for us to show our dominance against these weaker teams. I think we should perform in the same way as we performed against Blackpool. No-nonsense game, full domination and full control from start to finish, taking our chances and making quick decisions when it comes to passes and shots. We cant expect the team to open up their defences to let us in, instead we have to force open their defence. And we already know that playing neatly or dominating the whole game doesn’t mean that we win. We have to score goals to win. When I say we win the game by scoring, it should be that we win with a margin of a least 2 or 3 goals. Because I really don’t want our team to soak up all the pressure in the final 10 minutes when we are 1-0 up.

    Coming back to our targets, i think our team has to step up a level now. Looking in to our future fixtures, I can see the Man City away game in on Oct 24 as a game which we have to win even though I put this game as loss in our targets. Also the November fixtures also look like a headache because we have 7 games in the span of 22 days, out of which 5 are away games including Everton, Wolves and Villa and 1 home game is against Spurs. We can’t afford to lose any games from this. In fact we cant even afford to draw against any of them. All these games have to be won if we want to win the league.

    On a more positive note, we can expect Cesc, Van Persie, Walcott and Vermaelen back by then. Hopefully they’ll be back by the City game because we can win against any team with our actual 1st team. More importantly, we showed that our reserves too can match up against a team like Chelsea at Stamford bridge, though they came up short. So overall I still have lots of confidence in our team. What we have to avoid is to drop points against anyone below us in the league and also put a stop on our injury list. For many years we’ve seen our best players getting injured for a massive part of the season. Now its has to stop. We’ve already suffered the impact of injuries this season. Hopefully, this should end soon and then I can see our team play with the same flair and finishing that we started this season with.

    Keep the faith fellow Gooners!!

  • richiebacardi

    Phew well it’s been a while since i’ve posted here. Nice analysis Dev. The Chelsea match was the first one I was able to watch this season. We lacked the fighting spirit, but it’s definitely an improvement on last year’s performance.

    Now on a totally different note (I do apologise if it has been covered before)….

    How come all of a sudden the “premiership has gone nasty”?? Is it because now more non-Arsenal players are getting their legs broken?

    I seem to remember when Arsenal were complaining that the tackles were rough and not aimed at getting the ball, these same idiots who are now bumping their gumswere saying, tackling and rough tackling is part of the game and Arsenal boys need to learn to take it and blah blah blah….Oh some people just try their best to drive me insane…

    Well rant over…not a good welcome back post but I had to vent! Hope everyone at WOA is ok!

  • Yemi

    @ richiebacardi:
    Feel free to vent!!!!
    Now that more pple are complaining about stoke, hull, b’burn etc Maybe something will be done about it.