How to add speed and dynamism to the CBs-DM triangle?
Watching Holland battle against ‘minnows’ Kazakhstan and Iceland over the last few days, made me think about Arsenal. The similarities were quite strong. Against both teams the Dutch conceded an early goal and after that it was the typical battle against the parked busses. Both Kazakhstan and Iceland cannot be blamed for sitting back and defending a lead with all they have got, but the Dutch team can be blamed for conceding early in both games. They made it so hard for themselves and it is exactly what Arsenal so often do to themselves as well.
Beating the parked busses is becoming harder and harder, it seems. Teams are better drilled than ever and they love fighting for each other till the very end. The Dutch have formidable, classical wingers in Lens and Robben, very good CFs in Van Judas and the Hunter, and a couple of decent playmakers in Sneijder and Afellay. Yet, they struggled long against Kazakhstan and needed a fair portion of luck (soft penalty and strong deflection) to get past them; and against Iceland they got totally frozen out, never managing to score after going 2-0 behind in the first half.
How many times have we seen Arsenal struggle in a similar way over the last few season, despite having fantastic attackers and midfielders on the pitch?
It is so important to find a balance between urgency and concentration when attempting to crack the PTBs, but this is all made that bit harder when a team is trailing. If Holland cannot crack them with the players mentioned above – and I reckon Germany and Spain have struggled in a similar vain over the last week – it might explain to some extent why we are struggling so often as well. Especially, as we also have a tendency to go behind to some dodgy defending (set pieces or counterattack).
Having a solid defence is of course key.
Teams like Arsenal and Holland will always prefer to attack and therefore run the risk of being vulnerable at the back. The Dutch continual weakness in defence has held back a whole generation of talented footballers, and I reckon it is fair to say the same about our beloved Arsenal.
From the goalkeeper to the CBs(pairing) and our left back, we just have not been able to get both quality and stability in these key positions for a long time now. Moreover, Arsene and Steve have not been able to get them to work as a solid unit. Last season saw a big improvement in many ways, with a large number of clean sheets and a strong away record, but it all fell down when we faced the stronger teams, with embarrassing mega losses rattling the most positive minded Gooners in the process. We conceded 41 goals and managed a goal difference of only +27 in the PL, whereas the champions conceded only four less but ended up with an eye-watering goal difference of +65. One could argue that we should have scored a lot more goals rather than worry about our defensive record during the previous season. I would agree with that to some extent, but going forward Arsenal need to focus on both areas in order to make the next step up.
Many of us have argued that the least we must do is protect the back four better with a quality, athletic, beast of a DM. Every summer we are apparently looking for one but, for whatever reason, we end up with zilch every time.
I am a big fan of the BFG and reckon that his obvious shortcomings – lack of speed and ‘turnability’ when playing higher up the pitch – can be compensated within the team, so that his clear strengths – organisation of defence, headers, positioning, blocks, leadership – can shine through. The question is, however, whether we can play a relatively slow and ageing DM in either Arteta or Flamini in front of him…. and whether we can allow our FBs to bomb forward so much as they often do either.
Can we really afford to have so much slowness in the centre of defence and midfield whilst playing attacking, possession football?
I also rate both Flamini and Arteta enough to feel they have a place in the team/squad, but am concerned whether their and the BFG’s the lack of speed and dynamism can be compensated for in the same starting eleven. I reckon we will not make significant progress until Arsene adds speed and dynamisms – from within or the market – in either area. In a few years, Chambers can fill the void, either at the back or in the DM position, but it would be foolish to start counting on him now. As we saw this week in his games for England, Calum is a work in progress despite a truly phenomenal start for the mighty Arsenal. Let’s use him but not abuse him.
In Gibbs, Debuchy and Koz we have potentially solid defenders capable of now forming a high-quality defence that can aid the attack as well. The goalkeeper position remains open for debate. Szczesny continues to divide opinion with mixing the sublime with the ridiculous from one game to the next, and we have not seen enough of Ospina to see whether he would bring more stability and quality to the defence. Wojciech’s impressive performance against Germany could be the start of a more solid and focussed period, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for another season at least.
I realise that our attack needs to score a lot more goals as well, and as Liverpool almost showed last season, if we score more than we concede we can go all the way to winning the PL. But to really make progress long term, and to have a better chance against fellow top teams, we need to add speed, athleticism and dynamism in the triangle of CBs and DM. To do so, something has to give.
So my questions to you are:
- Do you agree and why (not)?
- What should Wenger do to add speed and dynamism to the ‘triangle’?
Written by: TotalArsenal.