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 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…
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. 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.
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.