Start Churning Out Consistent Performances and Results?
Regular contributor FLO8 wrote the following comment in the last thread. We reprint it here because it asks all the right questions and proposes some interesting answers.
Going forward, as we must, we have to wonder, was the performance and result vs United a one-off or could it be an indication that Arsenal have turned a corner?
Despite a great outcome versus Man U, I still have my reservations about the effectiveness of our style of play against those sides that like to sit deep, defend in numbers and generally play on the counter attack.
Our last two EPL opponents play a notoriously open style of play – Leicester attack on numbers with swift forward movement; Man U – a little like ourselves – attempt to patiently monopolise possession in their opponent’s half and try to capitalise on any openings they are able to create or the opposition provide them with.
Positively the side appeared to have matured to a point were they are willing to adapt their playing style (i.e. use a counter attacking style as opposed to the normal patient possession hoarding approach) to take advantage of the opposition’s openness.
Not many teams in the Premier League play with such openness though, so my doubts about our general attacking effectiveness still lingers.
That said our first goal was a great template of how Arsenal can and should attack if we are to persist with our possession hoarding approach. In that instance Arsenal overloaded their right hand side of attack with Coquelin, Ramsey, Ozil, Bellerin and Walcott all within a small area on the right edge of the opposition’s penalty box. Coquelin, Ramsey, Ozil all quickly exchanged passes and Ozil, Bellerin and Walcott subsequently provided off the ball attacking options for Ramsey to choose from. Ramsey was able to pick out Ozil (thanks largely to Walcott and Bellerin’s presence).
The effect of the right sided overload was that Alexis (Arsenal’s best finisher) became Arsenal’s central striking option and rest was simple.
I’m really hoping that Arsenal’s noticed the effectiveness of that particular overload strategy and it’s natural alignment with our normal possession hoarding approach. It’s a strategy Arsenal could regularly employ with success when facing sides that like to sit deep, defend in numbers and generally play on the counter attack.
Great comment, Mr. FLO! Getting that first goal, by overloading and successfully pressing United into a deep turnover, of course, had the effect of making them need to come out and try to equalise. The 2nd goal was a beautiful pounce with Ozil, the goal scorer, taking the central position as we attacked down the other (left) side. If Ozil had wanted, he also might have played in Ramsey who was quickly moving into a strong position on the right.
My point–and the one which I believe FLO8 is making–is that we have the players to pull defences out of shape, i.e., to one side or the other, with overloads which create the space needed to get shots away from good central positions. Our third goal started on the right but worked because of Theo Walcott’s fine control and even better pass (with his left foot, no less!) which found Alexis in space on the left. He did the predictable thing, touching it back to the middle. Defender Mateo Darmian must feel hard done by that his attempted tackle bounced up perfectly for our man to blast into the top corner of the net. Regardless, it still emphasizes what can happen when our play creates enough space for those lucky bounces to occur.
Of course, it’s all a bit different at nil-nil and against teams who would be happy with exactly that result. Overloads are hard to create if the other team is conceding possession. At that point it becomes more about creating those overloads and pressing teams to the point where if they try to play their way out, we can pounce on them. For me, it’s all about movement. If our players in the #9 and #10 roles (Theo and Ozil these days) can press a team into a corner, backed up by the FB and wide attacker on that side, it becomes very difficult for the opponent. Simply put, instead of trying to play the ball out, Daley Blind probably should have put his boot through the ball (on the first goal) instead of giving Francis Coquelin a chance to keep it in play.
For fun and because we don’t get to play again for 10 days, here are all the goals. (Please pardon the ad…)
It’s ironic to believe that it’s actually harder for this Arsenal team to defeat the lesser teams, but it may just be true. If, however, we just keep up this level of flexible movement, with and without the ball, I think we can start breaking down the parked buses. Olivier Giroud, of course, doesn’t move as quickly as Walcott, but–as long as he is inspired to keep moving–his presence can work in similar ways AND offer both an improved target for crosses and a powerful protective presence with balls at his feet, around which our quicker attackers (Alexis, Ozil and Ramsey) can circulate.
In my opinion we missed Giroud–badly–in both Champions League matches. In the first, at Dinamo Zagreb, too many complaints and demands for ref protection led to two yellows and Arsenal playing a man down. We got the one goal back, but the 2nd (where we might have missed him at the set piece) was the killer. It was 11 v 11 at home vs Olympiakos but the Giroud suspension means our best weapon against parked buses was missing. Again, goals at set pieces were our undoing and his presence there might have helped. Going a goal behind (3 times) and not having him at our disposal proved too much on the night.
That’s just my take on matters, and likely there were other issues in trying to rotate deeper into our squad. Are we a little less aggressive (and thus effective) with our pressing and possession play when we bring in the likes of Debuchy, Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain? Ospina in goal stands out as a rotation which backfired, but it could go deeper than that.
What say you, fellow BK contributors? Is it Giroud we need? Can a better team dynamic, i.e., more movement and being unafraid to overload parts of the pitch and fill for each other–no matter who plays–be the answer? Maybe it’s both… If you’re a reader who doesn’t comment, why not give it a try? We always try to be friendly here at Bergkampesque, but we’re likely at our very nicest here in the wake of the ManU result… 😀
Breaking down teams who have set up to thwart us is less fun than playing in open matches. Still, it just takes that first goal and then they have to come out at play… How then do we get it?
by FLO8 and 17highburyterrace