Crushing ManU was Great! — How Does Arsenal Take the Next Step and

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?

FLO8 wrote:

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

19 thoughts on “Crushing ManU was Great! — How Does Arsenal Take the Next Step and

  • 1st reply i do believe ness i have bebn beaten.
    Interesting read Flo & 17,
    The park the bus team are a big problem.
    I am not sure what the answer is, but i like your idea’s.
    The way we played v United should be the blue print imo.
    Must team in the world know that we would come out on top if they played an open game v us.
    So must play to defend against us these days. We seem to have the players and manager tactics to brake them down now though.
    I hope so anyway.

  • Hi PG… I gotta get my day started here…but…Cheers for the comment…

    What I noticed in the ManU match (and I think FLO8 captured well) is that we look better when we’re not afraid to get a few bodies near the ball and others rotate around to take advantage if we can get it. Obviously, if we’re in possession we sort of have to do this sort of thing (those triangles are 3 v 2s…) but it can also work if we can nip in and poke the ball towards a teammate. Le Coq did just that for the first goal, after all.

    PTB teams will tend towards hoofing it when they get the chance and overloading always risks getting caught out on the break. So it goes… Maybe it’s better to really go for it from the opening kick-off and try really hard to get that first goal. I missed that part of the Olympiakos match, but it sounded like we certainly made the effort. Slim margins, of course, but the advantage–to the team that scored it–is always bigger (than just the scoreline) when that first goal goes in…

    Personally, I prefer Giroud as CF when we know a team thinks they cannot run with us…Theo, however, is playing great so you cannot drop him… Tough decisions, but good ones to have. On that note, fingers (and toes) crossed everybody returns healthy from the Int’ls…

  • All I can say is Grrrr!- see previous post.

    You have mail HT, but somewhat negated by the above – to which I mostly agree with, btw.

    Never mind, next week isn’t far away.


  • hi.

    I am always wondering why arsenal do not use tatics of whipping good crosses to OG when many a times he is in good positions. they do not use this tactic often enough. good crosses in box with midfield high up, you are likely to get some more goal scoring opportunities. I wonder.

  • It is hard to add much to what he said.
    Breaking down PTBT is a hard task.
    I for 1 do agree with what he said apart from i am starting to prefer Theo up front going with Cockie’s PPP the 3 P’s pace pace pace, will sign the race.
    I love Giroud as well and i think we are yet to see the very best from him, he is still improving. So as Flo said its a tricky 1 for Wenger, but a good problem to have .

  • Thanks so much 17 for turning my comment into a post! I’ve been wanting to try and pen something for ages.

    “Maybe it’s better to really go for it from the opening kick-off and try really hard to get that first goal.” I couldn’t agree more with this comment of yours 17, particularly when considering how well that strategy dovetails with Arsenal’s possession hoarding capability. I think of it as sort of a ‘1 nil to the Arsenal’ approach but with a modern twist. Rather than Arsenal shutting up shop and just focusing all their efforts on maintaining a solid defensive structure and defending in numbers (so as to not concede an equaliser), this Arsenal side could use it’s patient possession hoarding approach to choke the life out of the game after getting the first goal and simply look to capitalise on opportunities that present themselves when the opposition invariably come forward or loosen their defensive structure in an effort to equalise.

    A critical component of successfully implementing that strategy though is being being able to effectively defend set pieces (both corners and free kicks). For that reason I do think Arsenal miss Giroud’s presence, though I have to say Coquelin and Per were immense when defending set pieces versus Man Utd.

    It all goes to show that Arsenal have the capabilities and ingredients to be successful and compete for titles, it really comes down to the players’ strategic maturity and executing consistently. They’re responsibilities which rest squarely with the players on the field.

  • Gerry,

    Sorry for changing your goal posts.. i was just taking your queue on the consistency issue..

    And Flo8 took it brilliantly.

    To the question of whether we need Ollie, yes, we need him against parked buses, but the overload of the front three means that we can patiently wait until Ollie gets the form of the season. We can wait for that.

    The reason why we got such a bad start in the CL is that we still cant find a way past parked buses.. but last week’s display kind of changed that thought. However, this can still change if we really play against pacy parked buses that counters. Think the Chavs.

    We need Ollie just to finish the game nowadays.. it meant that he has the holding-the-ball qualities, and does best if we revert to a 4-4-2 formation.

    We rarely see him playing on the striker role these days.. mostly holding up the ball in the wings and putting crosses in. We needed that when we are slowing down. Sometimes i feel that after scoring a few quick fire goals we just slowed down and defend. Against quick counter teams we cannot afford to do that.

    Just my 2 pence (exchange rate equals to 4 cents?).


  • Well I enjoyed reading that post…
    Some interesting theories there, I must say…

    Not read any comments yet, but I wonder if, it all comes down to scoring an early goal?
    We’ve gone off like a train in many of our games this season, but the cutting edge was missing, leading to frustration, loss of discipline and shape, resulting in the conceding of poor goals. Was not West Ham a classic example?!

    An early goal negates the bus, and the rest is relatively simple…

    Well, that’s my theory… 🙂

  • I think most of the responses are are in agreement, and at the same time dissecting pieces that I was writing about .. without having to read it. What a time saver hindsight would be? 😀

    As an interesting parallel to all this, and this is more your cup of tea HT, on ‘Hardtalk’ this morning, the 4.30am edition. I say that because unusually they had another one at 3.30am which I only caught the tail end of. Anyway, this mornings guest was the American writer, Jonathan Kranzen. I found him very interesting in the way he took time out to think about both the question and his response to it. Not in an evasive way, but more so that he could give an accurate account of what he thought … I had never heard of him before, but you might have read some of his novels HT?
    So on the question of the internet, to which his latest novel is the theme, where he both attacks and defends it. On the one side he dislikes that it is ‘owned’ by big business, the Google’s, and the Apple’s of this world. Because of that, it attracts snappy one liners who come from the extremes, thus generating the big ‘hit’ numbers from ‘others on the opposite extreme ….
    Now do you see the connection with football blogs, and being right up your street HT? 😀

    As the author of long novels, Ranzen clearly is an extreme version of myself :LOL:

    He had an interesting view on Hilary Clinton too. He thinks the electorate in America will be turned off by her ‘old school’ politics, where she tries to turn America towards ‘a force for good’ rather than the extremes of the Republican view is largely one of ‘leave it to business interests’ to sort things out?

    But I digress …


  • Thanks FLO8 for the way you’ve channelled our euphoria into constructive thoughts, so we don’t hit the ground sooner or later like a broken winged bird. Thanks HT and all else for picking up the seed of FLO8’s thought and pushing its boundaries. To Gerry I’d rather say you are the extreme example of Ranzen! Your oblique view of things fascinate me. It rakes up little details that recolour a perception. It kind of makes you start again.

    Yes, how do we drag defenses out of shape. Overloads? Quick vertical transitions? Gengen pressing? Slow, patient, horizontal build up? Recoiling and countering? Use of provocateurs? Spontaneity and brilliance? All of the above and more?

    If we were playing against zombies, I would have, long time ago, provided you with a straight forward answer. Meanwhile I am still thinking.


  • A Dinamo Zagreb player fails a drugs test following his teams victory over Arsenal…

    And yet, as it stands, the result doesn’t change!

  • Hey all,

    I highly recommend you check out the Behind the Numbers: Early Goals article on Arsenal’s website. It completely supports 17’s early goal comments!

  • PE, as i do not read any of Kranzen’s posts, Gerry, and Steve can combine forces to write a super long novel that would facinate even non footy fans.

    Allezkev, i do not think for myself that scoring the first goal is the defining moment. It is more of having a feel good factor, although we have seen less and less of teams drawing or coming back to win against us if we score early.

    In truth, i was shaking in my seat when watching the last match when we started slowing down and they took over. Thankfully my fears did not come true.

    To conclude, PE, i will prefer provocateur and overload strategy.


  • Evening all. The focus here seems to be on the choice between Giroud and Walcott, and how to tackle PTB teams. I think we may be missing something when we look at the results over the early part of the season. The focus has been too much on the merits of the strikers, and less on the performance of the support cast.

    My view is that part of our problem with PTB teams thus far has been the lack of form (goal scoring at least) of Sanchez, Rambo, Ozil and Santi. Sanchez has been playing himself into form and, whilst Walcott has played superbly (and Ozil too), this has been the most significant part of our recent improvement. But Rambo and Santi have yet to find their scoring boots, and Ozil continues to be light in this department.

    What is interesting to me is that both Walcott and Giroud appear capable of pulling defences apart to let the rest of our attack in; previously I would only have seen Gir being able to manage this. And on form, Walcott must be the pick for any big game. But I do think Giroud can be at least his equal – assuming he can rediscover his confidence. But whoever we have up front, we will only deliver the big wins, or break through the PTB teams, when we have Sanchez, Rambo and Santi on scoring form. Sanchez looks to be back (if he can stay out of injury in the internal!). We need our Rambo back next.

  • FFGs 🙂

    I am almost finished with my latest project, which lasted 3.5 months, and will get back to blogging tomorrow. Thanks for keeping things going, especially 17HT, and cannot wait to talk proper footie with you all again.

    Keep trucking! 🙂

  • Interesting to see Liam Brady returning to the Arsenal Academy…

    Of course the mischief makers will see that as undermining Andries Jonker.
    Whilst I just see it as adding another talent to our Youth set-up…

  • New Post, new post.

    Before moving on, I’m very pleased that FLO8 enjoyed this one…Cheers again for letting us use your fine comment as the center-piece.

    TA, I’m getting very busy (ahead of our travels) so a bit less time for editing, etc. To borrow a term from ‘professional’ wrestling… I’m looking forward to “tagging out…” 😀

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