Whilst Arsenal have strengthened almost every other area in the team during the last twelve months or so, the full backs were left standing. And quite rightly so, as we have some of the finest full backs in the country and they fit nicely into the style of play of the team.
Full backs at Arsenal are really more wing backs than anything else. They have a massive responsibility within the team both in defence, midfield and attack. On the left we have the energetic and tenacious Nacho Monreal, and on the right we have speed machine and excellent recoverer, Bellerin. As back up we have the loyal and ‘safe pair of hands’ Gibbs and the experienced Debuchy, and Jenkinson is also getting closer to a return to the team.
We all know about the defensive responsibilities of a full back but Arsenal now also rely on them heavily to provide width and penetration from the wings. The traditional winger seems to be a dying breed as more and more teams prefer a hybrid between a midfielder and attacker to play close to the nr10 and CF. Good wing backs are hard to find as the total package requires a lot of skills.
With Bellerin we probably have the most talented wing back in the country and I am pleased the club were able to hold on to him this season. There is no doubt that he can still learn a few things, but he has the rare ability to combine very fast running and close ball control with a cool head both when he attacks and defends. He reads the game very well for such a young player and therefore is often in the right place at the right time.
With Nacho we have a player who gets better the more he plays, a bit like Ramsey in a way. Once he gets properly going Monreal is awesome and a very important player for the team. He has great drive and determination to win and usually finds a very good balance between defending and attacking. It is fair to say that Nacho has also been part of our recent failure to secure our left side of the defence, which was so cruelly exposed against Pool during the season’s opener for example. But I reckon that the team will get this right and Monreal will play a key part in doing so.
The one area that needs a step improvement is the final ball into the box by our full backs. Not that they do badly. Monreal and Bellerin both played 36 PL games (!!!) and the former had a total of three assists and averages 0.8 key passes per PL game, whilst the latter had five assists and 0.7 key passes per game, and he also managed to score once. Debuchy did not play last season so no stats available for him, but Kieran had 15 PL games (only three starts), had no assists and only 0.1 key passes per game, but he did manage to score a goal for us in the PL last season (as well as in the CL).
It is pretty amazing that Bellerin, who will be ‘only’ 21 till March next year, managed to play so many games in such a physically and mentally demanding position last season. And the same goes for Nacho who is slowly entering the autumn years of his football career but still managed to play 36 PL games.
I love these Spanish bullfighters and let’s hope they can play a key role in our season once again. And if they can get the final ball into the box just that little bit sharper, we should see even more key passes, assists and goals from our full backs. If we want to win the title than this is one of the key improvements required, and I reckon they can deliver it.
Bring it on!
14 thoughts on “Arsenal have Excellent new Signings but these two Spanish Bullfighters are Invaluable in 2016-17”
Good post and subject T. I am not the only one who feels confident with our fullback situation. I think it was the area considered the least in need of strengthening over the summer.
Also i think that having a couple of homegrown back-ups in Gibbs and Jenkinson who arent pushing for a move away from the club is a nice bonus. They seem happy to try and earn gametime with us. Debuchy is a very good player, but seems to need constant playing time to be near his best. Otherwise, he would be the best 2nd choice fb in the league..
Another sign that we underrate our own defenders, is the prices of our guys in fantasy premier league. Right near the top, like Cech. Those prices are usually accurate, though i dont know how theyre arrived at.
I’d like tto think that many clean sheets are expected overall.
Yes , TA , a nice post as a prelude to the all important ‘Guess the Squad’ preview post?
I think you are both right and wrong about Monreal trials this season.
Right to point out that he has looked a little off his normal excellence.
Right to say the team balance has not helped his cause.
Wrong, for the above reason, to suggest weakness down our left side was down to him.
In a circular way I will come back to that point. But watching the England Under 21’s the other night, where they ran out 6-1 winners, but for the first half an hour it looked like a 0-2 scoreline would have been a fair reflection had that been the case at half time?
However, poor finishing by the opposition, and a couple of excellent saves by the England ‘keeper made the difference. It got me thinking, I can imagine a few Arsenal games going like that?
More than anything though, the main thing that ‘clicked’ in my head, was how similar they kicked off, to the way I foresee Arsenal playing some games this season.
Now with the new rules on the kick off, with the ball not having to go forward, it meant those lining up in attack were only three. The single player taking the kick off, as being the only player in the centre circle. The opposition not allowed to, and the attacking side not needing to take that unnecessary touch forward, or having players wide on the wings ready fo the third ball being played into opposition territory (the second touch having been played back to the midfield)
This is much more controlled, and gives the kicking-off side time to establish possession as they take up their attacking formation.
It is that part that I also see how Arsenal will play it. in crude terms, an attacking 4-4-2.
In reality, it is more a 1-2-1-2 when attacking, and a 2-1-2-1 when loosing possession..
The basic idea is that one player stays high when defending, and one player says deep(er) when attacking.
Once you get your head around how that works in practice, when different players will occupy those ‘single’ positions, you can see a fluidity that will only work when a team has really gelled with the players around them.
For example; In our set piece situations, either corners or free kicks where both our CB’s go forward, when Gibbs plays, he is that last defender in front of our ‘keeper. Without doubt in my mind, he is the best player for that role …. and with the same reasoning why Wayne Rooney would be the worst choice (in the England seniors match). Which begs the question ‘Why was he!!???.
However, in the absence of Gibbs playing, this role has been shared by both Monreal and Bellerrin. In real time play the choice is is more limited to a DM/B2B player, as the FB’s are generally used to provide extra width? or the CB’s, who could also be candidates.
This is why for this type of play to work, every player needs to be aware of the other player’s movements in order to cover the space he leaves. All to often we see Coquelin take the ball deep into the final third because it opened up for him to do so. Nothing wrong with that. But when we get exposed on a counter attack … Everything is wrong with that!
Team game, so play more as a team.
But that is down to the coaching staff
In that England Under 21’s.the commentators, in a simplistic way they have, said ‘England had 2 up front, and a ‘diamond’ formation behind.. Which given the 1-2-1 bit, it does present it like it. And for the first half an hour, England played like that. Unfortunately, the defensive one was Chalobar?
I don’t like to be over critical of youngsters, but I do not rate him as being the best there is at International level. Once they went more 4-3-3 (yes, simplistic I know, but I am trying to keep this short 😀 ), he had more support, and they gained control of the midfield … and they were able to feed Rashford some half chances, which he duly converted.
And the rest is history …..
That is the real lesson with fluid play … Support your weakest link!
That is what we failed to do regards Monreal above.
Cheers Johnnie for bothering to comment. 😀⚽️
I like the idea of the FF value of a player saying something about their real value.
Cheers Gerry. Agreed it is a team game. 😀⚽️
TA, great post.
Great the way you drew our attension to the importance of our full backs to the effective performance of the team.
Also spot on your identification of Bellerin as a very offensive minded player who however is able to compensate defensively with special tracking back attitude and ability. Monreal less offensive minded but able to balance his game perfectly with his very mature awareness of space and positioning.
I love it when the not too visible is made very visible.
Well thank you PE. 😀😜
Indeed, where would we be without our fine FBs?
Hi TA, Sorry that so few seem to want to respond. I think most are “keeping their powder dry” to see if Arsenal can provide the results (wins) that they feel we (they) deserve. In the end it’s a results based game, I fear…
Another reason people might not be commenting is that your post is quite obvious–we have a pair of very good footballers playing at FB. How’s that news?!? You’d probably get more hits with a headline like “Can Arsenal Hold onto our Spanish Fullbacks?” or “Which Spanish Fullback is Next at Arsenal?” Fear and greed run the markets and thus the hit parade…
Regardless, I appreciate the post and you’ve broken it down a good deal more to highlight both strengths and weaknesses in the individuals being discussed. Well done…
You’ve also brought forward the role of FBS in the modern game even if it didn’t take 1000 words to do so. In general, esp. when buses are parked, they need to rotate back (not stand there waiting) depending upon the movement of the ball. If they ball goes to the opposite side, rotate back. Simple. It should get even easier with Xhaka playing the distributor and pivot function by way of passing the ball. Also, if Alexis becomes our left sided stalwart, it should signal even more time for Nacho to focus on defending. For better or worse, Alexis rarely uses his overlapping FB and (too?…) predictably cuts back centrally onto his right foot. To his credit he does tend to (at least) want to help out his FB if he loses (the word is lose, not loose…) the ball.
As such, I expect more attack from Bellerin and less from Nacho, making us a somewhat lopsided attack. Theo, Ox or Perez out wide right will need to work with Bellerin and more and more of our attack will come down that side, pulling the ball back to our left footers (Ozil, Giroud, Perez) and our fox in the box (Alexis) for the final (telling) balls and, ideally, goals. It’s also very possible that Alexis will play a bit more on the right while the left becomes Lucas’ spot…
I’m less sanguine about the happiness of Debuchy and Gibbs on the bench. Those two have enough quality to want to be starters somewhere; Jenkinson has never convinced me that he can play at the requisite level. Has he improved through injury? I kind of doubt it… Speaking of injury, is Nacho back and ready to play vs So’ton?…
Anyhow, cheers for the post, but boy oh boy do we need a game (or at least a win…) to get back into the groove…
Cheers 17 🙂
Maybe it is just the international break that makes everyone, you and me included, less keen on blogging this week. Fine with me.
Lets not get too worried about spelling. I have little time so have to write my blogs in a short period of time and there will be some mistakes in each and every blog. Its the content that matters buddy. 🙂
No doubt Debuchy would rather play regularly but nobody was willing to pay for him, it seems. So he is a Gunner till at least January and by that time Jenkinson is ready to be our cover man. We will have to see how much progress he has made at WH, but the injury will have been a major setback.
Bellerin and Monreal are just the next full-back duo, who are carrying on a fine Arsenal tradition of top quality Arsenal full-backs…
From time to time over the years, we’ve had periods where a certain position needs strengthening, but rarely at full-back…
From Storey/McNab, Rice/Nelson, through Anderson/Sansom, Dixon/Winterburn and Cole/Lauren and up to today, we’ve had some exceptional exponents of the art of full-backery (is that a word?).
Nice post Totalista
TA, your Email is begging to be checked.
Agreed Allezkev, we have a very fine tradition of great full backs under winger.. he even made winterburn and Dixon into excellent attacking forces while keeping a balance with their defensive qualities. We have been caught out a little with striking the right balance with our existing bullfighters but by and large wenger has done an excellent coaching job with them. That and a mix of innate footballing intelligence they both have in good supply. But just as an inevitable consequence of our style of play, on quick turnovers against us they will be exposed from time to time.. but then that brings us onto our midfield unit, which the full backs will appreciate the extra cover from, in particular from Elneny this season & also from Xhaka and Coquelin too.
So true Kevski, and long may it continue.
PE, many thanks – can I publish it tomorrow evening?
Good point about cover from midfield, FMJ. Earlier today 17HT eluded to this as well.
New Post New Post 🙂