Beautiful defending and the great sound of ‘2-0 to the Arsenal’

The BFG

The BFG

 It is a legitimate thing to defend…in a legitimate way!

Last week was arguably one of the best we have had this season – first we won an away match against one of the best European teams (if not the best one), and managed to restrict them to no clear-cut chances, and then we won in Wales against Swansea with another brilliant defensive performance in which opponents had no shots on target. It’s not just that we won two away matches against tough opponents that made me especially happy, but also the fact that we managed to reply to our home defeats against those same opponents. And, all that without Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen and Wojciech Sczszesny in the first eleven, and with Lukasz Fabianski on the goal after more than a year without an appearance.

These two victories could hardly be described as typical Arsenal victories in the Wenger-era. Both opponents had bigger share of possession (both teams had 55 percent), but neither of them managed to transform possession into something more efficient.

These victories could hardly be described as „park-the-bus“-type of defending, given that we had more dangerous attacks and counter-attacks than both Bayern and Swansea. Both victories had brilliant defending based on sound foundations, and I think that is exactly how we should do it until we get ourselves a world-class striker.

Remember, not so long ago, we were defeated by Bayern at home and against North London Chokers away. In both defeats, the most heard comment with reference to the Arsenal games in South-Slavic languages was that Arsenal have „neither head nor tail“, since our performances in front of both goals had been terrible and expensive.

There are some people who seem to confuse terms „quality defending“ and „anti-football“. Restricting opponents’ chances in a legitimate way doesn’t necessarily means that you are an anti-football coach.

If you are a responsible manager, you will do your best to use club resources (including players you have) in the best possible way. You can’t make a banana-split out of a lemon, but you can make a decent lemonade.

Let’s take a look at another last-16 CL match. When AC Milan played Barcelona at San Siro, they completely nullified all Barcelona qualities, and switched Lionel Messi off. Barcelona had all that possession they wanted but in both final thirds of the pitch, it was AC Milan who got what is really important: a clean sheet and two scored goals. When their manager Allegri abandoned his tactics from the first game, and his players like Ambrosini opted not to fight for every ball, the Italian giants were destroyed and Messi scored two out of four Barcelona goals (one of them should have been ruled out due to offside).

There is a similar example from our favourite season 2003-04 when we lost 0:3 against Inter at home only to beat them 5:1 at Meazza. Inter were managed back then by Hector Raul Cuper and he came at London without Christian Vieri but still demonstrated the highest level of quality defending, and got themselves a comfortable victory. We all know what happened in reverse fixture. Cuper was sacked, and Inter appointed Alberto Zaccheroni as their manager. Zaccheroni didn’t follow the path made by Cuper and, despite Vieri’s return to the team, and Arsenal playing without Vieira, Lauren, Keown and Wiltord, Inter managed to lose  not just the game, but also a high aggregate lead against us, which  Cuper had left to Zaccheroni.

One might say (and it could be true) that Arsenal’s success during the Wenger-era was based on George Graham’s defense, and Arsene Wenger’s midfield and attack; before adding that problems only really started when Wenger tried to apply his way of defending which neglected the physical part of the game.

It is a great thing when you can have both fluent attacking football and results; something that we had with Invincibles. But sometimes one of those things has to be sacrificed, and we all know which one any fan would opt for. Our performances during the Champions League campaign in 2006 were hardly breath-taking (especially second leg against Villarreal), but we managed to knock-out Real Madrid, Juventus and Villarreal without conceding a goal in six consecutive games (ten, when we count group phase), and we were unlucky to lose against Barcelona in the Final. Speaking of Barcelona, we were very close to knock them out from the Champions’ League in 2011, despite the fact that we failed to make a single shot on target in second leg.

Now, I mentioned above the terms ‘quality defending’ and ‘anti-football’. If there is a team that represents everything that Wenger’s Arsenal hasn’t been, it’s Stoke City managed by Tony Pulis. Their football has been more like rugby, as it is full of horrible tackles that go unpunished thanks to the lenient policy by Football Association towards the actions of the ‘Butchers from Britannia’. Is it because FA wants to preserve traditional English football? Do they keep Stoke City afloat as some sort of ZOO in which the last examples of traditional English football based on muscles, tackles and challenges can be seen? In the first match we played against Stoke this season, their players made three fouls that deserved red cards. They got none.

But there is this thing called karma for that too. When FAnchester United lost to Real Madrid mostly thanks to the fact Nani got sent off, they couldn’t believe that someone could give a straight red card to their player. When Pierluigi Collina backed referee Cakir, I realized that the biggest problem United had in that game was the fact that they are used to the criteria of another bald referee, who tolerated a life-threatening tackle by Nigel De Jong in World Cup Final in 2010. And that’s how karma works:  Italians put their trust into Pierluigi Collina who gave penalties and red cards against Juventus despite the status Juventus have had among most of Italian referees, and they were rewarded with 4th World Cup title in 2006, where they showed classy defending and being runners-up at Euro 2012; while England – who consider Howard Webb as their best referee – failed to reach any Final since 1966, and will mostly regret the poor taking of penalties and stupid red cards being received by FAnchester United players.

Alas, my point is, ‘quality defending’ and ‘quality football’ are not mutually exclusive terms; just like ‘beautiful football’ doesn’t necessarily means ‘quality football’. Being called ‘one-nil-to-Arsenal’ again wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen to us.

After all, if we continue with performances like the previous two fixtures, we might even earn a new nickname: ‘two-nil-to-Arsenal’!

Written by: Admir.

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75 Responses to Beautiful defending and the great sound of ‘2-0 to the Arsenal’

  1. Milo says:

    I have to say, that calling Stoke City names is hard for me to do seeing as I have a fan of Stoke for a friend…I tend to disagree with her views regarding the Ramsey incident, but I have never called her or her club names. It’s a lot different when you have fans of other clubs, as friends. You learn what to say, and what not to say, and you realize that there are a lot of similarities between us all. This is why I don’t hate all Spurs supporters, or any for that matter…I just hate their club!!! 😀

    Going back to the topic, I’d like to think that we will see the return of some of the football we saw in the seasons between 2007-2011, when we played the best football in the land. If it weren’t for that horrible collapse in 2007/08, when Eduardo broke his leg, we’d have at least one league title to our name in this time frame!!! We played the best football in the country, bar none, and we didn’t necessarily have ALL the best players. I think we will eventually return to this, except we will actually win something in the future!!! 😀 For the rest of this season, I think we should stick with what works for us currently, and then try and tweak some things in the off-season. We are very close with some of the partnerships and combinations on the field. If the players can stay healthy, like Jack Wilshere, I am sure he will compliment Cazorla beautifully. It was coming around, and with a further addition in defensive midfield, I’m sure we would see that pair blossom. It’s funny, how a defensive addition could actually see us progress offensively.

  2. henrychan says:

    Morning all..

    Yes.. We almost did it several times.. this last 3 years.. Barca.. Milan.. and Munchen.. Just not lucky enough.. hehe..
    Every season our team give their best in UCL.. No clubs will be please to meet us.. cause they know no matter how bad our squad is.. We could knocked them out..

    I was talking about Wilfred Bony in my last comment.. He is fantastic.. he scores 26 in 27 games.. (statistic said he was only play 24) and may bring Vitesse to UCL next year.. Just like Isco.. and sure Cazorla.. bring Malaga..

    He is a CF.. big and strong Ivorian.. will be a good tandem with Gervinho.. Hope he land to Emirates.. hehe..

  3. TotalArsenal says:

    Admir well done for writing a fine post about a very hot topic.

    For me, there are four kinds of football: unattractive/unsuccessful football, unattractive/ successful football, beautiful/unsuccessful football and beautiful/successful football.

    Very few teams play the latter, as it is far easier to play unattractive/successful football; especially if you have money and can afford the best footballers. Now of course, things are not so black and white as I just painted it. Watching RM or MU, or Milan against Barcelona (first leg) is not necessarily watching unattractive football, but it is not great football either.

    As long as Arsene is the manager, we will never see Arsenal play football like that for a sustained period. As per my post a couple of days ago, I agree with you that we are likely to play the same sort of football as we did against Swansea and Bayern for the rest of the season. Less attractive but effective football, which will hopefully take us back into the top-four before the season is over. I am more than happy with that.

    And I hope we also use this period to finally nail down a good defence, and the ability to defend as a team, so we can take that into the next season. Arsene and Steve can then build on this with the team over the summer, whilst adding some quality players as well. So, we get back to Wenger-ball with more solid foundations.

  4. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi Milo, fine second paragraph and all agreed! 🙂

    Hi Henry, you always try to flog us those Eredivisie players hahaha! 🙂

    Last year it was Dost and now it is Bony. How is Dost doing in Germany?!

  5. popethegooner says:

    Good points on the defensive display of the side. Interesting that you mention the 2006 CL campaign as a comparison. As far as I recall, Wenger had to rely on Flamini as one of the full backs as Cole was being sat out due to contract talk? Yet in an unusual set up, the team managed to impress with an amazing defensive solidity. A similar thing happened in the first few games of this season, with Mannone in goal and Jenkinson in for the injured Sagna. I know that Sunderland and Stoke shouldn’t be compared to the likes of Real Madrid, but still there seems to be a pattern. It was a masterstroke of Wenger to rotate the defense to wake up the team and give them something to think about.
    There is also the case that the attacking players seemed to be much more direct and efficient in the last two games. If Wenger manages to keep this new found defensive awareness high while gradually giving the players more freedom to move forward, then we will soon see some very good football from the Arsenal again.

    In one point I have to disagree with you though… Stoke are effectively a team parking the bus quite often, but even though I do not like that style at all, I don’t think we can legitimately say it is not legitimate to defend like they do. After all, if I were a football manager at Stoke, it would probably be my best chance to collect some points by playing like they do. Given the players and their respective skill sets one cannot demand of them to play like the Arsenal.

  6. Rohan says:

    Hi Admir,
    A very fine piece, I have been ranting to my gunner friends, saying the same thing for a while.
    As popethegunner mentioned in a previous post, the counter-attacking style of the German national team can be just as exciting as possession based football. The counter attack was used by the arsenal of old more than the new – it essentially gave us a strong attacking threat whilst keeping defensively sound. Also gunners should bear in mind that Wenger always looks for the win – we wont see negative football from this team, and against clubs that ARE trying to sit back and defend we will still push up.

  7. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi Rohan,

    Interesting point of view there. Germany were outplayed by Italy and then Italy were outplayed by Spain during the Euros. I reckon Italy played the most defensively solid footie and Spain to the most attack-minded, and Germany somehow were a mixture of both, but it somehow did not work when it really mattered.

    I reckon you would like Arsenal more to play like Holland did during the World Cup. Despite average defenders they managed to be solid defensively by playing with two typical DMs, and allow four attackers to somehow create chances (helped a lot by the full-backs). Holland played very un-Holland like but it got them in the final and a whisker away from winning the WC.

  8. Admir says:

    @Milo – hi! 🙂 Of course, friends of all football beliefs should be respected but just like you said, I hate some clubs. 🙂 One of my closest friends is a fan of Liverpool and the other one is a fan of FAnchester United.
    Regarding 2007-2011 period, there are some things that should be said. First of all, we had poor results against Chelsea and United during that period. I usually point out season 2010-11 as the one that was destined for our trophies because we would be champions on goal-difference had only Top 4 results counted. Second of all, our defense rarely gave a good display in big matches. I think Vermaelen never won a game against United and he participated in that 5:3 victory only a little bit (enough to make an important block, though). Third of all, we couldn’t fight against meltdowns that happened at some point of the season. Fourth, Gael Clichy. People usually recall Birmingham match for Eduardo’s injury but we would win that match had Clichy didn’t make mistake in 92nd minute that cost us penalty and two points (and, before that, Hleb and Adebayor were alone against Birmingham goalkeeper and failed to score third goal).

    @henrychan – hi! 🙂 If TA is right regarding your recommendations from Eredivisie, I presume you would offer us Afonso Alves back then. 🙂 Wilfried was outstanding in Football Manager 2012 but then again, that’s the same game I got Aguero AND 10 million euros for Sagna from Manchester Oilers. 🙂

    @popethegooner – hi! 🙂 You’re right. Flamini played as left full-back but he was brilliant in that role although it was Eboue that I expected to become a new Thuram given that he was winning more or less every duel against Real and Juventus. Defense is more than anything matter of approach, just like that Rosicky’s tackle on Robben you described 🙂
    I think that there was some analysis that showed that Stoke had most of disputable referees’ decisions in their favour last season. I highly doubt that they would have that had England had their own Collina.

    @TA – hi! 🙂 I agree. Top 4 until the end of the season can and must be reached so we can attract top players in summer transfer window. If that means we have to play more defensive than we have played this season, so be it.

  9. Admir says:

    @rohan – hi! 🙂 Counter-attacks might be very attractive and that style requires players with ability to make a quick transformation from defense to attack. We had that in period between 2002 and 2005, sometimes it seemed like our whole team is on opponents’ half.

    @TA – regarding Holland team from WC 2010: that was arguably the least likeable team (Van Bronckhorst excluded, I always had a soft spot for him) Holland have had ever since I watch football but also the most successful ones. 🙂 Had Robben grew a pair, Holland would get what they deserved in 1974, 1978 and 1998.

  10. popethegooner says:

    Ok, thanks for thw additional info re Flamini, Admir.
    I remember seeing a table modified as to represent the points of every team if the ref had called all the goals right. If I remember correctly, Stoke was the one club that lost the most points in the corrected versus the real table. And there cards that were not issued do not have as big an effect as in a real game. However my point was that it still does not make stokes approach of defending as a unit or heap bad. It is not the same to park the bus and to play nasty. The former is just a way of getting the best out of the players at hand while the latter is just a disgrace to football.

  11. Rohan says:

    TA, Holland are a very good example of what I am talking about and i would say that arsene is trying to recreate that style. However, I’m not trying to comment on effectiveness of the style of play, what I was trying to say was that Germany were still very entertaining to watch despite not playing a Tiki-Taka style. That said, a very specific type of high quality players are required to play like spain and some people (Wenger included) even say the spanish style of play can become tedious to watch.
    I prefer to view football as entertaining vs. un-entertaining rather than beautiful vs. ugly. On the topic of Germany though, I think Germany’s loss to Italy actually stemmed from a failure to adapt. The beautiful/tiki-taka/possession style football has it’s place in certain situations.
    To illustrate, allow me to compare Italy to Stoke – playing a counter attacking style against them would be futile as they rarely commit many men to the attack. However against a team willing to commit men to attack us, we should prosper i.e. Swansea, and Bayern.
    For so long sticking to Plan A has cost us against big teams, so why not switch to Plan B?

  12. 17highburyterrace says:

    Fine piece of writing. The unspoken question here is what’s up with the English game in the wake of no teams making the final 8 of the CL….(but I think it’s spot on to note ManUre’s over-the-top sense of injustice)….

    Wenger and Arsenal changed the game and made the top teams NEED to add flair to their displays. Why couldn’t Abramovich find happiness with Mourinho? For the same reason that current Merengues have told me that he is the big reason their team cannot compete with Barca. (Of course, that was in the Autumn, I should ask them now….) This need for better football even applies to mid-table and relegation teams. Everyone wants to be Swansea (not Stoke) and many supporters up there are tired of Pulis despite the consistency of his results. Why did Fat Sam get canned at Blackburn when he was delivering the goods?

    Add this to the culture of English football and it makes life very tough on the refs. The influx of players from other playing cultures, greatly spurred by Wenger again, is the cause. In the past it was easy to reward the occasional dive by the likes of Rooney and Gerrard, but it gets tougher when Suarez and Chicarito (and all the others) are so obviously playing for contact. It’s a shame the yellows for simulation were only tried for that one season a couple of years back, with “flow of the game,” I guess, being the reason it was dropped. The author is correct in noting that our “best” referee is also very inconsistent. What I’ve noticed about Webb is that he doesn’t want to make the big call unless it helps the match, the result being lots of warnings and calls near the center circle and lots of waved off penalties unless it helps a team get back in a match where they’ve been experiencing a bit of “injustice.” He’ll be around for years so it’s just something with which teams need to cope. In fact, he’s much better than most of them who don’t seem able to perceive dangerous play in the least, while often being all too easily conned by flops in the box. Slicker players, slicker pitches and divers mean that the defenders don’t have very many tools in the toolbox these days, the result being high scorelines and strange results.

    Overall it’s not the worst thing (parity and upsets) and again just something that must be accepted. We sold ManU the league (and likely the double) in the form of RVP but the overall quality has dropped. A second key is this very sort of player mobility. Rooney can threaten to move across town and only get a couple of death threats. RVP does his thing but Santos is vilified for wanting to trade shirts. Nasri “did the right thing” leaving Arsenal when they won the league but is it really so wrong now that he never plays but still collects his 190k/week? How do you motivate players when they can just switch teams (fueled by fans and newspapers begging for action, any action in the transfer windows)?….

    Any team that gets it together for a period of games can do what they need to do to keep the money flowing. As such, I have high hopes for Arsenal getting up for a CL position. Likewise, I wouldn’t look past Wigan pulling another great escape, though Aston Villa might have enough pride (and a good manager) and do likewise. QPR (like ManCity and Chelsea) contracts have already been signed. Will the players in these squads do what is necessary to play to the levels they should? I wonder…..

    Frankly I doubt we’ll play the run-in in a particularly defensive mode. We maybe just look that way when Jack isn’t in the squad. At the moment we simply don’t have the players to play a real passing game. If slow Per Mertesacker is in the back 4 AND we’ve got rookies as fullbacks AND we need two unconvincing DMs (Ramsey or Diaby plus Arteta) to do the work of one….it makes perfect sense to play Route 1 to our big French fella and hope he can knock it down to Theo. (Santi’s awesone long balls out wide have a similar effect….) Maybe Rosicky (and Gervinho) will start against Reading and it’ll be a goal-fest. Certainly I’d expect us to win the possession stat in that one…. Who knows? Who cares? We’re in a tight spot so results are all that matter. Stoke City will not be relegated. They have the luxury of worrying about such things…..

  13. TERRY MANCINI HAIR TRANSPLANT says:

    Admir, loved this post. I agree with many of your observations and the one “without a head or tail” made me laugh, mainly because of my freak out after defeats usulay revolves around the line “f*uck all up front and shit at the back” after ranting i threaten to kill myself but no one lisitens so i calm down. hahaha

    To be honest, i am a bit torn about the whole subject. Been a supporter of near on 40 years i have of course lived through the perception of boring Arsenal. When we were winning i loved it and took pride from its badge.

    Then Wenger came along and my whole outlook was changed. It quickly dawned on me that despite all the games that i had watched i realy knew nothing about football, probably still dont. hahaha. Adams and Bould ball playing defenders?, passing yourself out of trouble? A lack of long ball in the English game?

    For the life of me, i just didnt think the above was possible. Would i go back to the old days if we were to start winning? i would have to say no. Wenger has educated me. You can win and you can win splendidly, and i love watching beautiful football.

    Its all about balance in football and in the last two games the balance has been good. lets build on it, start winning regularly and keep to the philosophy of attacking fluent football which for me personaly is a joy to behold.

  14. TotalArsenal says:

    Yes Admir, Robben missed a hairy pair of balls in that final. I witnessed us losing three WC finals in my life; that is a lot of footie pain!

  15. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi Rohan, all understood about attractiveness rather than effectiveness, in terms of your comment. The best international game I watched in a while was Italy beating Germany, but that is mainly because Pirlo was awesome to watch that day. I love to watch tiki taka, especially when it is deadly. Having said that, Barca and Spain often suffocate opponents and just do not allow them to play, and there is something not right about it (though totally within the rules).

  16. Rohan says:

    I know what you mean about watching Pirlo at his best,I do love watching games in which one or two players run the show- particularly if they are on opposite sides. It’s part of the reason why El Clasico is such a loved spectacle – the classic ronaldo vs messi duel tends to throw a thriller as at least one of the two will produce magic on the night.

  17. Highbury Harmony says:

    Hi Admir,

    Another fine post on BK and a topic that has likely been on the minds of several Arsenal fans as of late.

    However, I do have a point of contention with the first paragraph. No clear cut chances for Bayern? From what I remember, Robben had a breakaway and forced Fabianski to make a superb diving save. No shots on target for Swansea? They had 2 on target, both of which were not too difficult, but Fab did have to save them. I understand that these are minor details in the large scheme of your article, but please get these facts right! Also, our list of unused/injured players becomes less impressive when you consider that Bayern were without Schweinsteiger, Ribeiry and Boateng.

    I pretty much agree with what Terry said above, word for word. I would never want us to sacrifice beautiful football for results. However, I understand why we need to play with a defensive stronghold right now. Simply put, we lack the personnel to play otherwise and we desperately need to finish top 4 to qualify for CL and attract the talent needed to fully engage in Wengerball again.

    There has to be an aspect of quality defending for any successful title winning side. However, there’s a considerable difference between “quality defending” and “being a defensive fortress”. So long as our defending is not the image that our club becomes known for game to game, I have no issue with a collective commitment to team defence. There are games when it is simply impossible to score, despite the amount of talent you may have in your squad. In those games, grinding it out is necessary to produce the desired result.

    The Invincibles were so successful because they could adapt to any strategy and with four world-class talents up front, they could create magic even while being outnumbered by the opposition. If we can begin to attract a high level of quality talent this summer, I see no reason why Arsenal cannot thrive on that strategy once again (collective team defending, nice passing and free-flowing, counter attacking and slightly compartmentalized).

  18. Mike says:

    I’m sorry after the great Bergkamp and Henry I just can NOT go backwards and that s exactly what going back to the 1 nil to the Arsenal days and Boring boring arsenal day is a step backward. sure we might win more games and yes lacking a brilliantly talented footballer like Bergkamp or Henry maybe that is all we can hope for for now but I do not want boring Arsenal I want Bergkampesque football and I am surprised that on a site names that you would even consider going back to boring boring Arsenal. That is why I feel the Arsenal board and Wenger should be searching the world over to find and then Spend what ever it takes to bring in a Magical player to Arsenal a Eric Cantona, a Bergkamp a Henry a Zidane. THAT is what I want to see a brilliantly player in a quality team.
    If there is ONE thing Wenger does understand and I agree with is that Football IS NOT about reckless tackles and out outmuscling it is about out playing out scoring and making the other team be the one spending the game time defending. And the only time their keeper touches the ball is to pick it up out of the back of the net. THAT is what Arsenal football should be about that is what Bergkamp brought to Arsenal yes you need to get the ball back when you lose it that is all part of total football but the difference is what you do with it once you get it back. The Old”one nil” Arsenal would win it and then hold it the Bergkampesque Arsenal would win it then make them pay. AND do it with style. AND really without SOME Bergkampesque play the game would be nil bill not 1 nil.

  19. henrychan says:

    @TA.. although Indonesian are a big fans of Holland.. but sadly no TV station want to rely the eredivisie.. hehe.. for free I mean.. hehe..
    I just check it out.. and surprise for what I saw.. hehe.. why don’t play him along with Gervinho.. hehehe..
    Bas Dost.. doing okay for Wolfsburg.. He still their top scorer with 12 goals and Olic (ex BM) second with 10.. but he got some injured..

    @Admir.. Pity me.. I don’t really know this Brazilian you say.. I only know heereveen 2-3 years back.. with Bas Dost as the top scorer of Eredivisie.. and Narsingh give him nice assist.. hehe.. now both of them already gone.. But i still hope for the best for them cause one of my favourite players.. Van Basten managed them.. hehe..

  20. Rohan says:

    Mike – in fairness very few people want to see a reversion to a negative arsenal. It’s hardly like we won the last two games by outmuscling our opponents. Deep defensive lines can still lead to great attacking play – Giroud’s goal against bayern was practically passable into the net. I wouldnt worry about us turning into a negative team, in fact I would say we looked more dangerous when attacking in the last couple of games.

  21. allezkev says:

    Good post Admir…
    2-0 to the Arsenal, I like the sound of that.
    I’d take nine more 2-0’s to the Gunners this season, thank you…

    BFG, I luv that guy…

  22. Highbury Harmony says:

    Also Admir, re my point about contention @ 0:32, I did not mean to come across as a jerk if it seemed that way! I just simply wanted to shed light on the fact that there were chances/shots for the other team and that we shouldn’t take away from Fabianski’s role in those two victories either :).

  23. Milo says:

    I do not like the offside trap, and would be happy if we never used it again. UNLESS we get a more pacy centre-half in there, in place of Mertesacker. You cannot have one centre-back playing for offside, while the other one sits back and doesn’t play for offside. At least I don’t think you can…It is possible to pressure the opposition while still holding a deeper defensive line. It requires extra work from the wingers and midfielders, but it COULD work in theory, at least. I don’t know…the offside trap ALWAYS makes me nervous. If we are down a goal, or need to win the match, then everyone should be up the pitch, but you shouldn’t base your whole defensive strategy around playing for the offside, or waiting for the opposition to make a mistake and venture offside. That’s just my opinion anyway.

  24. Milo says:

    Oh yeah and HH, Gotze just admitted that Man United (yuck) are an attractive option, as well as Real Madrid and Barcelona 😦 It’s not the end of the World, and we could still get him, but I don’t know…it will definitely be Champions League, or bust, concerning his transfer to us!!!

  25. henrychan says:

    Goetze or Isco.. Who is the best..??
    Soon we will know.. as Dortmund will fight Malaga..
    I prefer Dortmund win.. cause I want Isco to come to Emirates.. hehehhe..

  26. Red Arse says:

    Good Morning guys 🙂

  27. Gerry says:

    Good morning all. Another great post, and great responses, Amir.

    These interlull thingies are a great time for these types of discussions, are the not?

    I agree with much of what you have said, and to the fellow responders. I would like to add a tiny point regards our last two games, which has been indirectly touched on in various recent posts.

    That is, that whilst we have kept clean sheets, mistakes have been made. The difference has been we have been able to recover from them quickly. That is because, (Bayern style?), we have got bodies back quickly. In the Swansea game there were a couple of passes that either went straight to an opposing player, or it was an easy intercept. One from Jenks, and the other from Mert, and both would have probably cost us goals in previous games?

    So, while I feel we should continue to play this way, it would also help if they cut out the casual passes. The problem is, both players mentioned are fairly predictable in their passing. Jenk invariably plays the ball back or across field with his right foot, and makes his intention easy to read. Mert is normally very reliable with his passes, but it usually goes to either of the backs. Where he got caught out was a longer pass which opened up the chance of an interception. Better sides might exploit these tendencies?

    I think, with regards to the attractiveness, or not, of this defensive ploy with counter attacking capability comes down to the speed that the latter is done? Where it fails to be attractive is if the counter is too slow and we end up with tika taki and no goals, but keep a clean sheet? So we get this oft repeated talk of a solid DM allow two attacking midfielders to move the ball at pace? Or in our current squad, the double DM’s working as B2B players, with some being quicker than others???

    Two things that are not going to change between now and May; The squad is what it is; We need to win all 9 of our remaining games to be certain of CL spot … luckily, we have a run-in that gives us that opportunity if we can continue to grow in confidence with this style of play – Man U will have already wrapped up the league championship by then, so I think we will have the greatest motivation .. on so many levels? It is just about making the right choices.

  28. Red Arse says:

    I really enjoyed the post Admir, and I think you put your point across very well indeed.

    It would be a regressive step to go back to the George Graham days from the playing style point of view — but many other teams in those days played like that, but not as well as GG’s teams did. 🙂

    That said, I must admit that there should be a ‘middle road’, and that is to use a different defensive set up, when neccessary against certain top teams.
    You know — two full backs and 3 CBs behind 2 defensive midfielders, 2 speedy attacking wingers and a quality CF.
    Of course like any system, if you don’t have the right players, this can become a bogged down nightmare, and the same applies to trying to play break away, counter attacking football.

    Arsene will never go down that route, of course, and I for one would never argue with a genius like him. His way is best — if he gets the right quality of player to back it up.

  29. Gerry says:

    TA – I know this is the time when you pop you head around the door – Regards my racing blog.
    I am not sure how much broad interest there would be, this being a very international site, so if VCC is okay with this suggestion, then please feel free to pass on my e-mail address to him and I’ll give the details to him? He can pass it on to Terry or whoever is interested.

    Many thanks

  30. Gerry says:

    VCC – Saturdays racing is cert to be postponed until next week, assuming the weather is better by then?? As for today, I had a shortlist, but even if it goes ahead, which I doubt, I would not be making any suggestions on what would be heavy ground. So no rush with the above.

  31. Gerry says:

    Morning Redders, I get slightly confused when the future team is mentioned. AW will be picking from this squad, are you sure you haven’t any suggestions for him?

  32. VCC says:

    Gerry, cheers your a star, Amigo. Keep in touch. 😉

  33. VCC says:

    Nice post Admir.

    Looks like your becoming one of the “Family” here on BK. Your certainly a valuable scribe and more than welcome to the home of Arsenal blogging.

    I’m sure every Arsenal fan will take any type of win in the next nine games. If we pull that feat off, surly we will get a top four spot.

    Off to read the follow up comments. Been very busy this week, not had much time for blogging.

    Latterz Muvverz.

  34. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi Mike at 00.50 – fine, spirited comment my friend. The quest for beautiful football continuous and as long as we have Wenger managing us we know he will keep searching for it. But steel in the team and defensive solidity are part and parcel of it all: the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona stands on solid foundations and does not defy the laws of physics, and if Arsene wants his team to reach the dizzying heights of total football once more, he better makes sure he gets the basics right again (and Bouldie is just the man!) 😛

  35. TotalArsenal says:

    Thanks for the update Henry 🙂

    Allezkev, good to see you back here. I like the sound of nine more 2-0 to the Arsenal very much too! 😛

  36. TotalArsenal says:

    HH, you made some fine observations last night and it is true that we have been a tat lucky with our defending as well (especially in the first half against the Jacks).

    Milo, good observations re risks of playing the offside trap constantly. Many of us have been saying that BFG and Koz are the best CB-pairing for the system we play, as they work better together and compliment each other really well.

  37. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi Gerry, all agreed. There is progress in our defensive play, but we ain’t there yet.

    Hi Redders, yes we need the right calibre of players to play Wengerball again, but it is also a matter of time; of having the team together for long time and getting them to gel together. Van Gaal calls himself a process manager, and that is exactly what an approach to Total Football needs: a vision and football philosophy, time, discipline, good players (don’t need all to be great), and practice, practice and more practice.

    Let’s keep the key players together, add a bit more quality and work hard together over the summer; and Arsenal should be ready to rock properly again in the new season.

  38. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi Vickers 🙂

    What have you been busy with? Polishing the zimmer? hahaha 🙂

    Gerry, are you saying you want me to forward your email address to VCC?

  39. VCC says:

    Total…..paper work..paper work …paper work……..employ a solicitor and you have to do all the work yourself. …They are not too backward in coming forward when it’s pay out time though.

  40. TotalArsenal says:

    So true VCC! Hope you get a result from it though. I am missing the UMF this weekend!

  41. VCC says:

    Me too Total, although it’s been a hectic week for me, so the international week has been a rest so I can get on with all this crap i’m faced with.

    Insurance company’s really hack me off BIG time. Cheating muvver F——

  42. TotalArsenal says:

    Just threaten them with death by zimmerframing, Vickers, and they will soon give in! 😛

  43. VCC says:

    I’m thinking of sending Terry and GLiC round their gaff. The BK twins. They will sort them out. 🙂 Backed up by that huge Yank we have on here, he can flash his dic tionary at em.

    Trouble is Totes, it all boils down to time wasting tactics hoping to piss you off. The amount of back tracking and paper searching you have to do just to confirm your claim. It’s horrendous, I’ve really got better things to do than go through years of paper’s just to confirm the status.

    They won’t defeat me though. Cheating scoundrels.

  44. TotalArsenal says:

    Yes send the TerryGlicable twins and The American American and PPP after drinking a few Freddies; that will sort them out! 😆

  45. VCC says:

    you bet ya….I don’t know who will frighten them the most.

    Terry will frighten them with his meaness

    RA will frighten them with his size

    PPP will frighten them with his aggressive alcohol induced state

    GLiC will frighten them with his hideous face. 😉

  46. TotalArsenal says:

    hahaha Vickers, I reckon it’s Glic’s mirror that will give them all the creeps!

  47. VCC says:

    Your dead right Totes.

    He freeks me out big time. Poor sod, he can’t help it though. You are what you are I suppose. The Doctor must have slapped him really hard in the face when born, that’s simply not natural.

    His missus must have had impaired vision, or on drugs when they met, or he wouldn’t get any one to look at him twice. She must have felt sorry for the so and so. 😉

    She must be an absolute Angel to put up with him. 🙂

  48. Admir says:

    @17highburyterrace – hi! 🙂 I agree about quality of this season Premiership and strange results but I think that is something that has started at least season before. We lost to United 8:2 (though, we were without Sagna, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Song, Frimpong, Wilshere and Gervinho; two best players just left, Arshavin looked like he had a finger in his behind, Arteta, Mertesacker, Santos, Park and Benayoun were still at their respective clubs) but we won 5:3 at Stamford Bridge. Aforementioned United lost to City at home 6:1 despite being only one goal down at the half-time, etc, etc. Regarding this season, just take a look at United results before they tightened up their defense – the most common result was 3:2 for them. Even with leaky defense they had (more than one goal conceded per game), they have been capable to score one goal more than the opponent.

    @TERRY MANCINI HAIR TRANSPLANT – hi! 🙂 First, let me say that I love your nickname. 🙂 I think that 99 percent of people who loves football would say – and I’m no exception – that it is attractive attacking football that makes people to love football at the first place. However, I believe that we’ve been out of balance for some time and we desperately needed change. Two recent victories might be a bit of return to square one in terms of beautiful football but they also might be something to build-up on. Simple – at this point, we need victories to reach Champions’ League and we need Champions’ League to attract classy players that would improve both estethic and footballing quality (Goetze, Higuain).

    @Highbury Harmony – hi! 🙂 Thanks for correction. I wouldn’t minimize Fabianski’s role in our recent victories. I liked that save he made of Michu’s shot despite the fact Michu was offside.
    There is another thing: in recent years smaller reputation clubs have smelled our blood and used our defensive weaknesses during past years. When we have a solid defense like the one we have shown in the beginning of the season and during last week, it’s a step in right direction to insert fear in our opponents because that’s the one thing that has been missing for years. When you watch ManUre games, you will notice that in a plenty of occasions opponents don’t bother carrying their pants at Old Trafford. When we played Blackpool away in 2010-11, I was very calm before and during the match despite our poor run. Jens Lehmann was on our goal and he had that look: “I will bite your leg off if it stands in MY penalty box!” whenever Blackpool player came near our goal. 🙂 I want that approach, not actual biting. 🙂

    @Mike – hi! 🙂 Of course, I would like to see more of Bergkampesque football in Arsenal, we all would, but we need to sort our priorities. After all, in the last two matches Santi Cazorla was brilliant and he is the closest thing to Bergkampesque football in whole Premiership. The thing is, when you build a house, it’s not the roof that you make first. 😉

    @henrychan – Afonso Alves had more than goal per game in Eredivisie before being a flop at Middlesbrough. But then again, Mario Jardel was text-book example of “classic nine” while scoring dozens of goals for Porto, Sporting and Galatasaray only to fail to impress in Bolton.

    @Milo – I believe that what we needed in last two games was a real ball-winning midfielder since it is obvious that Arteta – no matter how much I like him and his attitude – can’t do that.

    @Gerry – hi! 🙂 I pointed out at that Jenk’s and BFG’s problem after Week 3 and victory at Anfield. http://allarsenal.com/guestposts/guest-post-compensation/ Right now, I’m eating my humble-pie because I doubted Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski would score same number of goals Verrader (it’s a proper Dutch word, TA?) and Song did last season. There was one Croatian coach that allegedly hit his defenders when they tried any sort of diagonal passes on their own half. I would add that Fabianski – just like his country-mate – must improve his kicking.

    @RA – hi! 🙂 I agree that playing against big teams requires special preparation. Mourinho might be the guy that deserves one night in the same cell with Simon Adebisi from OZ but the way he nullified Messi in recent matches Real played against Barcelona without use of excessive force is an interesting pattern, especially given that we conceded goals from leading stars of opponents’ (Fellaini, Džeko, Bale x2, Suarez, Verrader, Michu x3).

  49. TotalArsenal says:

    Vickers, I guess Glic’s missus is an angel, but who knows what she is up to when he goes and visit the land of Orc every Friday hehehehe 😀

    Admir, fine comments yes verrader means traitor but Judas is international language hahaha 😆

  50. Gerry says:

    TA – If you would pass my email address on to VCC please. I don’t want to impinge on the football whilst there are games to played. May be if in the close season you want to put the racing link up as an add on, then fine.
    My comments are more or less restricted to now, midday, my lunchtime, 5.0-ish, tea time, and whatever time I wake/get woken up, and will be getting briefer by the day!

    Cheers

  51. AFC says:

    Admir, great post.

    I think the reason for our improved defending has been down to Mertesacker. He is our most experienced defender and he is showing it. People do not seem to understand this but when you are as slow as Mertesacker playing in a fast league like the Prem this puts even more emphasis on the fact that you have to have even better positioning than the average defender in the Prem because of your lack of pace. Imagine how good a defender Mertesacker would be if he had some pace.

    I also think Fab has started to prove himself. He was always a good keeper but the probelm with him and so many other Arsenal keepers is the fact that they are not consistent enough. I do not think a new keeper is desperately needed next season. Look at Man U, De Gea and Szec are the similar in terms of abilty and I would say Fab is better than Lindergaard. Hart has made more mistakes than Szec for club and country and Cech is not as good as he used to be. Maybe Wenger is trying to see whether to extend Fab’s contract by playing him as Wenger does not really want to buy another GK as he thinks the money could be better used to improve the sqaud elsewhere.

  52. VCC says:

    AFC

    I totally agree about the goal keeper situation. I would persevere with both Szezeny and Fabianski. Use the money on out field players.

    Cech has seen better days, I wouldn’t swap our two for ManUre’s two. Hart is making some errors.

    So, all in all I would stick with Szes n Fab’s.

    The money (if available) would be best served as a Striker, DM and wide man. Simples.

  53. VCC says:

    Admir.

    I admire your house building philosophy. 🙂

  54. allezkev says:

    Hi TA. Always here mate. Always enjoy the chat.
    Good to read so many positives comments on BFG.

  55. TotalArsenal says:

    Are you a big fan of the BFG then, Allezkev?

    I think AFC hit the nail on the head with his review of the BFG’s qualities. In the early days of BK, I wrote a post called something like: ‘Vermaelen is our captain, but Mertesacker is our real leader’.

    I reckon Wenger made a mistake in giving Thomas the captaincy. He needs to be led rather than lead, and Mertesacker, a nice guy as he is, did not want to undermine the Belgian.

    BFG is now simply accepted as the leader and his German organisational skills – Ordnung muss sein sagte der Graf von Lichtenstein – are coming to the fore, and long may it continue. 🙂

  56. Gerry says:

    VCC – The blog is up, but I cannot get my emails just now ‘technical error’ say BtYahoo. I’ll keep checking though, but it is a watching brief today. Okay

  57. TotalArsenal says:

    Hey AFC, have you been catching up on some sleep hahaha 😉

  58. allezkev says:

    Yes TA, that is exactly as I see Merts.
    If only ppl could look beyond his lanky style, and see how he reads the game and keeps it simple.
    A simplicity that often goes unnoticed.
    He has, what, 80/90 caps for der Fatherland.
    I think the Jerries know a thing or two about intelligent footballers…
    I don’t mind seeing Arteta as captain, he does a great job.
    But i’d like to see BFG with the armband.
    He strikes me as a player who’ll immerse himself into the culture of the club, and will become a proper Gooner.

  59. TotalArsenal says:

    If Arteta remains the captain, it still allows Mertesacker to lead the defence, but I am with you, allezkev, that the BFG is our best man for the captaincy.

  60. VCC says:

    Gerry. All done Amigo.

  61. AFC says:

    TA, I have been really busy over the last 2 days.

    Regarding the captaincy. The options for me are either Jack as he will become the captain in the future but maybe Wenger wants him to mature first so Mertesacker should be the captain considering the amount of international caps he has for Germany, but I think he gave to Verm because he has been at the club much longer than Mertesacker.

    Personally I would give it to Sagna and in a few years he will eventually leave the club which is perfect timing for Jack to take over. Sagna has been with the club for a number of years and has always been reliable and is experienced.

  62. TotalArsenal says:

    AFC,
    The captaincy is very important, even though Wenger does not seem to give it much thought it seems. I love Sagna too, but I don’t think he would be a good captain, and length of service is not a good selection criteria if you asked me.

    So Mert, ideally, or Mikel, and yes Jack the Giant Killer in a couple of years!

  63. glic says:

    Evening Bone Rangers 😆

    Thanks for a fine post Admir.

    Reading some of the comments, are some of you Stiffy Flakes 😆 telling me you wouldn`t like the football played by Gorgeous George if it guarenteed some trophy`s ?. Of course I would prefer Wengerball, but not all GG`s games ended 1-0 to the Arsenal !.
    Here`s what will change your mind……..The Spunks down the road allegedly played good football when they had Glenda Hoddle, Ricky Villan and Ossie Arghdildo`s, but won fuck all ( maybe one little trophy ) !. So what would you rather have…… Spunks football and no trophy`s or GG`s football ( top scorers with first title ) and titles . ? Over to you Morning Glory Tent Pitchers. hahaha

  64. glic says:

    Here`s a treat for Monday girlz . Dont forget ( especially Vicky`s carer ) book it in your diary !.

    http://www.arsenal.com/nextgenlive

  65. VCC says:

    glic.

    Monday nights next gen game. Can you get it as a one off? ~I only want to watch the game not sign up for a month or the rest of the season.

  66. glic says:

    Thats Diary Vic`s…… not Dairy…..so we dont want you lost on a farm sucking some cow`s teats……if you do, lets hope you know the difference a cow and a bull !. hahaha

  67. glic says:

    I think you can do a one off Vic`s, best check out the Arsenal website. I should imagine it will be streemed on some unofficial site though !.

  68. glic says:

    It does say….”day pass holders ” on the link !.

  69. VCC says:

    cheers Glictorious, I’ll have some of that.

  70. VCC says:

    chamberlain starts tonight.

  71. AFC says:

    England hammering San Marino, Chamberlain has scored 1 of the 5 goals and its not even half time yet.

    This match is so boring I switched my PS3 on and am playing FIFA 13. England are playing that unattractive football what TA hates and San Marino look like a Semi-Pro team, it’s just too easy and I think even I would have scored by now if I was playing in that match.

    POINTLESS WATCHING!!!

  72. glic says:

    I actually thought we played well in that first half against a team who have not just parked the bus, but a train, a 747 and the QE2 !.

  73. TotalArsenal says:

    New Post New Post! 🙂

  74. Admir says:

    Great victory for Bosnia against Greece! 🙂 Emir Spahić is a real class.

    Maybe it is interesting to mention Ognjen Vranješ, a defender that plays for Alania (Russia), who is apparently monitored by Ferguson. Vidić came from Russian league as well. We could hijack Vranješ, ha? 🙂

  75. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi Admir, thanks for a fine post. We have now moved on to a new one, but feel free to re-post your comment on that one.

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