Why were so many off their normal game on Saturday?

Rotation v Fatigue

Giroud has often disappointed many Arsenal fans this season.
The hardest working Striker in the CL is seldom appreciated for the total impact on our game (comment TA).

Rotation? Do it to beat fatigue? Or don’t do it and ignore fatigue as long as possible?

Fatigue? Is it all in the mind? Or is it a genuine reason for under-performing?

I must admit I do find it strange that so many see fatigue, either as an irrelevance, or should not apply to professional footballers. So that is my starting point.

In almost any sport you care to mention, from Darts and Snooker through to Tennis and Track and Field events, those involved will, without exception, say that back to back performances get harder and harder. So why should footballers be any different?

Dart players need to concentrate to repeat actions over and over again. You may think that is simply a mechanical thing, so that if you practice a lot you don’t have to think about it. Well certainly practice helps. But in the pressure of performing in front of a live audience needs control of both emotions and their concentration level. Distractions can mean just the slight deviation in the flight of the throw that can mean victory or defeat? Repeated demands on the concentration levels always leaves its mark.

In snooker too: you are in a one on one situation, where you alternate between playing and not playing, but with a difference. You never know how long the sitting out periods may be. In darts, it is three arrows from your opponent and you are on. With snooker you can sit out a whole frame without getting your cue in action. You can play short round matches that may only last and hour. Or you can play the longer matches over two days, with several sessions a day. Worst still, you could be playing late into the night getting through one round, and then have to be ready to do the same again the following day. So even if the previous night was one of great satisfaction, and a great boost to the confidence level, if you have beaten a higher ranking opponent. But the records show that it is rarely repeated at that same level the next time. All snooker players can claim to have an advantage if they have just one day off between each match.

Moreover, with both these high intensity sports that lack the physical aspect, the victors at the end of a long tournament say they need a break. A physical break, before they can look forward to competing again.

But if you want to throw in the physical aspect on to an individual sport, then singles tennis events are probably the most demanding? The intensity of a partisan(?) crowd, the strength of your opponent, and often the climatic conditions are all their to test their mental strength. They too, see an advantage of having longer gaps between games than their opponents, irrespective of how they played previously. They too are drained at the end of a tournament where these demands are the most extreme.

With track athletes it is all about the physical performance. So they may have to stretch their stamina resources when they have two elimination rounds in one day. By the time the final rounds come along, it is usually the ones with the most ability that have been able to ease through the qualifying rounds, without extending themselves too much, that come out on top.

So when it comes to football, they not only have the physical effort to manage, but also the concentration levels too. Not for the two hours of a marathon runner, unless their is extra time, but way above the 10 seconds of the 100 metres sprint. Yes it is a team game, and the players are not involved all off the time, not to the physical extreme that is true. But the concentration level should always be on alert, because you can never be sure when you are going to have to make a tackle, or receive the ball. Fatigue in this area is what is so costly. An unexpected error will throw out what your fellow players were planning for, and that can be more draining on them?

So, just because professional footballers are well paid, have good facilities to train and recover from matches, does not mean that playing up to 95 minutes once a week does not leave them below their full level of all round fitness – mental and physical.

I have read that top football coaches think as much as 50% is lost by the following day. This is probably why if they do any training the next day, it is only light by nature? They then go on to say that by the second day, a player may recover 75% of what was lost in their last match. Which is still a significant drop, and will vary amongst the players. Another variable is just how demanding the previous game was? Another may be just how many demanding games have gone before the latest one? Travelling too, is not as relaxing after a bit of light training?

On top of all that you have the different demands that these factors are taking on the individual players. I said with the track athletes, if they are real top class performers they can breeze through their early rounds. However, the athletes that just scrape into the qualifiers are very unlikely to beat these same athletes in the final round because of the extra effort it took out of them? It is the same with teams of footballers. Some players will be stretching their ability in every game, while others are capable of making hard things look simple, because they can. So, a team of all round better players will be able to get through matches easier. That does not necessarily happen because of the ‘one off’ factor, when a lesser team has a game when it all comes together. But over the longer term, a full season, ‘the usual suspects’ are invariably somewhere near the top?

So, I ask again. Why is it so difficult to accept that football is a demanding game, and fatigue will play its part?

Take the run of games that Arsenal played:

Sunday match v Everton: Tough match, slightly added to (mentally) by not holding the late lead?

Tuesday fly out to Italy, probably still only 70% recovered?

Wednesday they played Napoli: tough game. Guess a %age below peak around 90%

Fly back early hours Thursday, now only 45% fit

Friday, just getting up to 65/70%?

Saturday, early kick off. What? 85% recovered, playing away from home against a very talented side.

Well, you know what happened. Does it make a bit more sense why so many were way off their normal game?

I hope so. Because this is why rotation is not just an option. Playing every 3 days will mean if we played the same 11 players for all these matches, there are some that will not make it past the third game, given they will not have recovered fully by the time the next game comes along, which compounds the drop in their ability to deliver once more.

The pros and cons of our run over this periods are: We have 3 good days to recover from the Chelsea game; Away match against West Ham, no real travelling; Unlike 2 good days, but match messed up by travel to Newcastle – the tricky tie I identified earlier.: We then have two good days, before we play Cardiff at home. The previous three results will help, but we are going to be down on our levels. Be warned, Cardiff will be fighting for their survival!: Next, FA Cup v Spurs will be just the tonic, even the most knackered will find something deep down for this one, albeit with only 2 good recovery days on top of all the rest. But then we get a 9 day break before our repeat fixture with the Villa.

A bad result against West Ham could mean one set of 11 players will be running on empty by the time the Cup match comes around.

So, all agreed? Rotation Rotation Rotation.

Done sensibly of course?

Written by: Gerry

Mesut, Aaron, Jack, Santi, Tomas: ideal cure for PTB.

Arsenal-form

I don’t know about you but when I have to do tedious tasks, like completing spreadsheets, peel potatoes or listen to MotD analysts, my mind often wanders to Arsenal moves and goals as a coping mechanism.

Our second goal against Pool-victors Hull, for example, serves as the perfect tedium killer. Every time I think of that goal a smile forms in my face: the way the Hull players wanted the ball over the line, the perseverance of Nacho and Ozil, the sharp combinations between Ramsey and Ozil whilst moving constantly, and the beautiful, beautiful measured ball into the box by the Welshman to the German, followed by  a fast, precise, deadly finish by Ozil. Stuff of day dreams.

Watch it again, from about 58 seconds onwards:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQkVFHWzUKY

Arsenal currently have five fit, multi-talented midfielders who can combined so well in tide spaces that we seem to have finally cracked the Park The Bus approach of some of the teams coming to the Emirates. Of course it helped that we scored an early goal against Hull, but it was also clear to me that they just could not deal with the movement and passing of our midfielders on Wednesday.

And if the movement and passing is good now, just imagine what it will look like in the future. Ramsey and Wilshere maturing further, Ozil settling properly into the team, Santi in his best form again, Rosicky coming in to replace tired legs at the start or during the games, and Ox returning fit and hungry to the team. Add to that the super talents of Eisfeld and Zelalem, and one or two others, and you know the future is bright.

It does make me think, though, what sort of football Arsene and Steve are aiming to play mid to long term: is this it or will we see another dimension added to our game?

I mention Steve Bould on purpose as I am equally impressed with the current defensive shape and discipline of the team. What initially seemed an awkward relationship between two strong-willed and passionate characters has slowly developed into one of great strength and depth. In recent seasons, there often was an obvious split in the team of the ‘defence seven’ – GK, defenders, and two defensive minded deeper laying midfielders – and the attacking four with the a limited amount of integration between the two ‘blocks’.

It worked for us when we needed to get results, but it was often hard on the eye, and was always going to be an interim measure as long as Wenger is ultimately in charge.

Now, after a summer of stability through keeping all our key players (except Gervinho, who I reckon we should have kept at least another year), and adding the extra dimension of Ozicle and the steel and extrovert leadership of the foxy Flamini to our talents, Wenger and Bould have evolved the team to the next – yet I feel not final – stage.

There is a lot more fluidity to our play and our team no longer look like two autonomous, task-orientated units. Only when we play the bigger teams, we still struggle a bit with playing as an integrated, holistic defending and attacking team. This is something the team will get better at the longer the players are together, and our two games against the Oilers will show us how far they have come.

We can look forward to the likes of Santi, Jack, Mesut, Aaron, Alex and Tomas becoming more and more a free moving, all conquering midfield attacking machine this season, with Flamini or Arteta offering defensive support behind them and Giroud being the pivotal, holding attacker up-front. On top of that, they get constant support from one full back at a time. There is growth in Gibbs and Jenkinson, and Nacho and Sagna are solid, safe pairs of hands for us.

Mid to long term, other than adding some strength in depth in some key areas (CB, DM, RB, CF), I can see us getting a top quality 24/25 year old left midfielder/winger. He would add another dimension, especially if and when combined with Theo on the right. That for me would be the next stage of growing our team into an all conquering machine again. It would give us variety in our approach to opponents and style of play.

cropped-henry-dog-008.jpg

We have not been lucky with our purchases for the LW/LM position in recent years; in fact, it seems to have some sort of curse ever since the one and only Pires left us, with Reyes, Arshavin and Gervinho, and to some extent Podolski, all failing to properly make it there. Let’s hope Arsene’s can find the final piece of the jigsaw in 2014 – either in January or the summer – and this team will become even better.

But what do you think fine fellow Gooners:

  1. Have Arsenal found the cure for PTB teams now?
  2. What style of football would you like Arsenal to play and are we there yet?
  3. Is the LW/LM an area in need of real improvement (rather than adding cover as in the DM, CB, RB and CF positions)?
  4. Who would be your nr.1 choice for the LW/MW?
  5. Who would be your nr.1 priority purchase in January?

Let’s have a heated debate! 😛

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Reintroduction of Arteta has disrupted the squad

gun__1373969704_arteta_idt

Now let me begin by saying that I like Arteta and he is a good player. The game against West Brom was a difficult one by all measures. I still think it is a game we could have won had we had taken them as seriously as we did Napoli, especially in the first 15 minutes. We were in complete control but looked like we were toying with them, rather than trying to score, unlike against the Italians. Anyway, credit to the team for winning the point in the end.

We have been playing very well, up until we met with the baggies. So what changed? In my opinion, it is the fact that Wenger has forced Arteta back into the team, without really looking at the balance. Against Napoli, we needed a double pivot to neutralize the threat posed by Hamsik, and it worked perfectly. Against WBA however, forcing Arteta alongside Flamini had a number of negative effects. First of all, it meant that Ramsey and Wilshere were pushed out wide. Wilshere had a shitter of a first half and it is only until he was brought back in the middle that we began to feel his presence.

As for Ramsey, we know he’s played wide before. However it has its downsides. Firstly, on the wing his movement is somewhat limited, and more so when playing in front of Jenkinson. This is because Jenko always bombs forward so Ramsey had to do a lot of covering work which in the end shackled him. Secondly, his influence and energy in the middle of the park which (dare I say) has been one of the main reasons we have dominated games, was sorely missed. You see Arteta is very good at reading the game and calm it down from deep, but lately it seems that’s all he’s good at. Do you know that against WBA he attempted only one forward pass in the opposition’s half, which was intercepted? All he does in pass sideways.

Arteta is no where near as good at dispossessing players as Ramsey and Flamini are. That’s what has made that partnership so good. Flamini will sit in front of the back four and Ramsey will support him when needed but then bomb forward and cause havoc on the other end. Ramsey also presses the ball very high (to great effect) which helps us win possession in very dangerous places. Both Flamini and Ramsey have a tenacity that neutralizes physical opponents. Yesterday you saw how we were bullied in the middle. Let’s not forget Ramsey’s goal threat is neutralized when he’s played out wide. Given his form, had he been played where he’s supposed to, he could and probably would have won us the game.

Second of all, bringing in Arteta gave Flamini the license to roam forward and this gave Sessegnon the space he needed to really terrorize us, which he did. When Ramsey and Flamini play together, they both know that Flamini protects the back and Ramsey moves forward. And because of Ramsey’s incredible engine, it works even when we are under pressure. Arteta just sits deep. This meant that Ozil was largely isolated and was therefore crowded out and neutralized. This made West Brom’s defending very easy. With Wilshere and Ramsey out wide, Mulumbu just needed to take Ozil out and they had a handle on us.

Flamini was the one (of the defensive two) going forward and let’s be honest, he’s no Ramsey. He had a few shots on goal which he hit straight at the keeper. Ramsey would have done much better. Even putting all this logic aside, if there’s a player who this season has earned the right to play where he feels most comfortable, it’s Aaron Ramsey. This game was very similar to the one we played against Marseille, except in that one Ramsey was played through the middle and won us the game.

To conclude, I will reiterate that I have nothing against Arteta. The thing is with the form of our three central midfielders (Flamini, Ramsey and Ozil) it is unfortunate but he is the one to lose his place, at least for now. I feel that we showed great character to salvage a point. That said, this is a game that could have gone either way and that shouldn’t be the case. If West Brom were better goal scorers, we could have lost. There’s a saying that goes ”if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. The team is anything but broke so changing one of its fundamental elements will only disrupt a flow that has been steadily building over the past few weeks.

On the plus side, Spurs were humiliated yesterday. COYG!!!!

 

Written by: Marcus.

Thierry Henry: Player-Coach?

_57624303_th08_getty

Yesterday’s announcement that the 39 year old Ryan Giggs will become a player-coach for  MU with immediate effect, made me thinks once again about our need to have and retain experienced winners, who also embody the core values and traditions of the club, at Arsenal.

I know that virtually everybody agrees that Bergkamp should join the coaching staff at Arsenal as soon as possible. We will have to wait and see whether this will happen.

However, there is another legend who would fit the bill perfectly, and like Ryan Giggs, he is still playing: Thierry Henry. Henry is a young chicken compared to Giggs, having only lived for a mere 35 years until now. And our all-time leading scorer with 228 goals has played not that many games less than the fantastic Welshman either (at least with regard to his on-field actions, we can only say that he was a fantastic footballer). Giggs played 1009 matches (including Internationals) and Henry 861.

TH14 has won virtually everything a modern footballer can win. The World Cup, the European Championship, the PL, Ligue 1, La Liga, the CL, and many, many cups and individual awards. He also loves Arsenal and sees the only part that matters in North London as his spiritual football home.

I am a big believer in the master-apprentice model of learning, especially in sports. As Arsenal likes to develop their own talents – often bought at a young age and therefore still totally mouldable – I reckon it is paramount to have a number of (former) masters in all disciplines at the club. Bould is doing a great job in getting the best out of our defenders and defensively minded midfielders at the moment, for example.

At MU they tend to keep hold of their veteran stars, although Van Nistelrooy, Stam and Beckham might tell us differently. However, the likes of Gibbs, Scholes and to a lesser extent Ferdinand are good examples of Masters who can guide, by word AND by action, the club’s youngsters to their full potential.

It saddens me a bit that the club (had to?) let go all our recent heroes, with the exception of the Iceman, although even he was not retained in a coaching capacity. What would Vieira have done for the likes of Ramsey, Frimpong, Wilshere, Coquelin, Diaby and even Arteta? His coaching, whether still as a player or as one of Arsene’s staff, would have been of great value to our promising talents.

Pires and possibly Ljungberg could also have played a great coaching role. All these players have been there and done it, love the club, and would still live and breathe the principles and values of total/Wenger football, as well as what the club stands for. And there are of course more legends who would fit the bill.

It is fantastic to see Freddie back at the club in an ambassadorial role now. And it would be great if we could add either Dennis or Thierry, or ideally both(!), as well.

Dennis would be a great coach and the thought of Bould-Wenger-Bergkamp on the bench would just be awesome. He is qualified and has gained management/coaching experience at one of  the greatest clubs in football history, Ajax. Would we find it hard to attract the likes of Higuain, Jovetic etc, if they knew they would be working with the Dutch Master directly? Possibly less so.

But this post is about the simply phenomenal Thierry Henry. Just imagine him working with Ox, Theo, Giroud, Podolski, Cazorla, Gnabry, Eisfeld, and hopefully HIguain and/or Jovetic on a constant, no time-constrains basis: it would be an absolute dream for these players and also for us. The Master would work his socks off to get them to reach their full, very promising potential, and make our club successful again.

It would also be nice that he himself could play now and again (mostly as a substitute), just to show the others how it is done in practice. He is not as fast or athletic as he used to be, but he makes up for this with his technique and experience, and if Giggs can do at 39, then surely Thierry can do it at 35.

Bring him back Arsene; we cannot have too many masters at our great club!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Forget about Higuain, Fellaini or Cesar, Wenger’s biggest decision is which direction to take

Arsene Wenger

“Alas,” said the mouse, “the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into.”

     “You only need to change your direction,” said the cat, and ate it up.

A Little Fable by Franz Kafka

Like any other Gooner out there, I am excited about the calibre of players we are being linked with at the moment; experienced, hit the ground running, quality players, is what our squad needs right now.

After years of economising and having to let go of the fruits of his hard labour, Arsene finds himself in an incredible lightness of being right now. Ferguson gone, new managers/transitional issues at Chelsea, Man City, Man United and Liverpool, no more need to let our best players go, AND a canon full of gold coins.

In the meantime, football seems to be evolving again. Barcelona’s advanced version of total football appears to have been ‘decoded’. First there was the super-basic ‘park the bus’ approach by the Chavs, which relied mainly on a mega-dosage of luck, and then there was the physical/athletic all-over-the-pitch-we’ll-hunt-you-down-and-not-allow-you-more-than-two-passes approach by the Bavarians. And we have seen a very similar deconstruction of Spain by the rampant Brazilians, just a few days ago. The double-DM pivot with multi-skilled midfielders seems to be the way forward now.

No doubt, though, Total Football will strike back again; but it might take a while.

Ten PL games before the end last season, Wenger and Bould made a conscious decision to go back to basics: more discipline in defence, a change of leadership and making our double-DM pivot prioritise on protecting the back four first and for all.

It did not exactly work a treat, but oh boy was it effective: Arsenal secured 26 out of 30 points from their last 10 PL games, and somehow managed to finish above the Spuddies once again.

It was not Wenger-ball, but industrious, blood, sweat and tears, we WILL survive sort of football; once we were ahead in those fixtures, most of us were just clock watching, hoping we would somehow hold on and take the three points. It was all aimed at finishing in the top-four and it was a great feat, given how low the team had fallen.

Arsene and Bould now have to decide what sort of football they want to play next season, and it will be really interesting to see which direction they’ll choose, as this will determine who will become/remain key players and who will be bought this summer (and not vice versa).

No doubt in my mind that Arsene and Bould will want to return to a (new) form of attractive, attacking Wengerball, with less emphasis on being solid defensively as our first priority.

However, it is unlikely that they will be happy to jeopardize all the good work that was done on being solid at the back during last season. And with Maureen back at the Chavs, a mean defence might be even more important than a highly productive, and competition outscoring, strike-force.

It is also Arsene’s last year under contract and although the club appears very keen to give him an extension, our French maestro might have doubts whether to sign-up to it. Also, Arsene might want to see real progress now, and next season will be absolutely crucial for him.

He needs to choose the right style and formation of football that will give Arsenal the best chance of gunning for silverware. He will have to decide who of his current squad are up for it and where and how they should play. He will need to add quality players who can hit the ground running and fit quickly into the team. He will need to keep the entire squad motivated, despite increased internal competition. He will need to give this team the belief they can win silverware this season and ensure there is plenty of leadership and hunger throughout the team.

Of course, Arsene (and Bould) has already thought about all this and he will now focus on adding new players to his squad who fit with his vision/chosen style of football for next season. From who he will buy (and for which areas), we will know a bit more how we are likely to play next season, and how he will go about to make the last year of his current contract a winning one; maybe even a truly special one.

Maybe this time round, Arsene’s direction, and tactical, on-field choices will outsmart the cat. It is about time he did. 

Written by: TotalArsenal.

cropped-henry-the-gooner-016.jpg

If you would like to be made aware of new posts coming out, you can sign up for email alerts. See right side of blog and enter your details in ‘Follow blog via email’.

Why did Wenger change to Bould-ball, and will he stick with it?

Bould and Wenger in harmony?
Bould and Wenger in harmony?

I’m a fan of Wenger, but over the last 8 years, he has come into a lot of criticism for his unwillingness to change from Plan A; criticisms which not even the most ardent Wenger supporter could fully refute. On the flip side, I do believe he comes under excessive criticism from some sectors over his stubbornness, the reason being his changes are normally subtle; rather than substituting or changing systems, he would rather change players’ roles or moves.

I also pose the question that if Wenger was such a poor tactician – as some fellow Gooners believe – we would not be the best second half team in the premiership this season; as it is in second halves when in-match tactical changes tend to show really well.

Despite my support, the defensive frailties are a tactical issue that Wenger has not really addressed for the vast portion of the season – much to the frustration of our fans, who grew wearisome of watching a Vermaelen cock-up that Mertesacker couldn’t keep up with to stop. Times were looking bleak until finally, at the Allianz Arena in Munich, it appeared that Wenger rectified the mistakes he was making at the back. The first question is why? What caused the change in system that had been plaguing our defence?

First things first, it is clear that in Munich we had nothing to lose. With no Wilshere, our midfield threatened to be overrun; we had lost 3-1 at home and were no longer under the illusion we could win this game stylishly. For once our team had the luxury of going for broke, and Wenger took it with both hands. With a team who had come under a lot of fire for shoddy-defending, Wenger saw the chance to try something new against top class opposition.

Secondly – The Tottenham loss and the missing game against Everton. Mertesacker spoke about how the Tottenham game caused the defence to have a closer look at their issues. I believe the break that was enforced due to Everton’s FA Cup game massively contributed to its effectiveness, as it gave the players a longer time to reflect.

In what was considered our biggest game of the season, two high-profile Vermaelen errors gave us the excuse to drop our captain – giving the now-impressing Koscielny his chance. I know it maybe too early to draw conclusion, but the Bayern game seemed to show me that the more disciplined Koscielny is a far better partner to Mertesacker than the gung-ho Vermaelen.

But what caused us to stick with Bould-ball? Well, quite clearly the performance against Bayern. Now I’m not just talking about the fact that we won, the crucial part of the win was that we scored twice, and could well have had an ONSIDE Walcott 3rd , or narrowly–missed Gervinho 4th. There is no point dwelling on the missed chances, but the point is that when fans watched the game they were thoroughly entertained, watching a defensively focused team that produced a game that in no-way could be labelled as anti-football.

Swansea, a fairly attacking team, then faced us next.This could not have been timed better; a slightly weaker team that like to attack enough to allow us to test out our new system once again. Despite early errors, we showed over the 90 minutes how sturdy our defence can potentially be. In spite of the praise received for the result, there is still reason to worry as questions can be raised as to when the system is effective. The deeper 4-2-3-1 sacrifices something in the attack, and that should be kept in mind when we are facing opposition that will look to lock us out. For example, don’t expect Reading or WBA to attack us like Bayern or Swansea.

My final and main reason I think this system will work, is actually due to the problems we’re having. The play is breaking down in the midfield; watching the silly passes, it seems to me that this is due to the lack of familiarity with the tactical style. It is very clear that our new defensive system requires our midfielders to step up. It is very plausible that in a few weeks we will still retain a serious attacking threat, without sacrificing our defensive strength.

You can view the decision to start dropping deeper as a negative way of playing, but I disagree: with more attacking fluency our team could play a beautiful attacking game, whilst maintaining defensive solidity. Others may disagree, but I believe we have the quality there, and as the crunch time approaches we might just be starting to show it.

Written by: Rohan

Rohan has recently started up his own Arsenal weblog: Ashburton Arsenal. It is a great blog with some fine articles for you to read, and I encourage you to have a look at it and a leave a comment on his site: 

http://ashburton-arsenal.blogspot.co.uk (see also BK’s blogrole).

TotalArsenal.

Is Wenger-ball being Bould-dozed over?

article-2223408-15B1C75C000005DC-640_468x286

We have all witnessed a significant change in the way Arsenal played in our two most recent games against Bayern and Swansea. Arsenal have played more compact and conservative, and we are playing not too dissimilar from the way we did during the first few games of the season.

Our full-backs are not bombing forwards as much anymore, and usually only one commits himself forward at any given time. Defence and midfield play closer together and move more up and down the pitch as a ‘double-bank’; and we also don’t play with a high defensive line as much as we used to do. Our two DMs stay closer together and operate more as a horizontal unit in front of the back four, and don’t often allow themselves anymore to get stretched vertically in midfield.

It now looks like we regularly have two sections in the team: ‘the back-seven’ and the ‘front-four’. The former makes us more solid and organised in terms of protecting our goal, and the latter is left with the task to somehow create chances and score goals.

During our first four games, we proved to be very solid at the back but we also did not create enough chances/ scored enough goals. It looked like Bould – who apparently had been given the task to make us defend better – had made us very solid at the back, but at the expense of our attacking endeavours, as well as our style of football to some extent.

Although Arsenal were not playing badly, especially if you take into account the large number of changes in personnel within the first team, but we were not scoring enough goals; leading to too many draws and us dropping too many points in the process.

I reckon Wenger changed our style of play by making the second DM play in a more advanced midfield position, in order to support our attack better: instead of a unit of seven and a unit of four, we played more with a unit of six at the back and a unit of five up-front. On top of that our FB’s were encouraged to constantly support our attackers and even one of CB’s was asked to join our attacking efforts.

We started to create more chances and score more goals, but gradually we also became weaker at the back and began to leak more goals; especially, and bizarrely, at home. Wengerball was not working very well, as we often gave games away during the first halves of our matches, whilst not being able to produce enough goals to compensate for this; despite some gutsy and productive second half performances.

Now that we are out of all cup-competitions and we still have a good chance to make it into the top-four, Wenger and Bould seem to have changed tactics again. I reckon Arsenal will be set up very similar to how we played against Bayern and Swansea for the rest of the season.

I reckon Bould will be most pleased with this, but Wenger will see it also as the best way of getting into the top-four this season. It won’t be pretty at times, and there is still a risk we will not score enough goals to get all three points from all our remaining games, but it is our best chance to get back into the CL again next season.

Wenger-ball will be kept on hold and I am sure Arsene and Bould will have another go next season, but for now it is the Bould-dozer that rules.

I reckon the next nine games will be an important building period for the team; as in becoming more solid and learning to defend and attack as team. Then come the summer, Arsene and Bould can get a couple of quality additions to tweak the team to the next level.

Written by: Total Arsenal.

Has there been a compromise between Bould and Wenger?

images (10)

Arsenal’s performance against the Royals was just what the doctor ordered, and there were signs that Arsene and Bould are starting to find the balance between solidity at the back and a deadly thrust up-front.

Of course, it is early days, and just as I am the first to point out that a bad result does not mean Arsenal are rubbish, it also needs stressing that a good performance and result against Reading does not mean Arsene and Bould have turned the corner. It also needs stressing that Arsenal needlessly conceded two goals, and that we in fact drew with the Royals in the second half.

However, looking at the game for a second time, there seemed to be a pattern to our play throughout the game which might indicate that Bould and Wenger are starting to find the formula for sustained success for the rest of the season.

One wing at a time

Without Theo playing on the right wing, where he formed such a formidable partnership with Sagna during last season especially, Arsenal channelled their wing-attacks through the left for most of the game. Sagna stayed a lot more behind than usually and Ox had to work more in isolation compared to Pod. The German has less tricks to his disposal and relies a lot on support from Cazorla and especially from his brother in arms; the fantastically versatile Gibbs.

Ox is less dependable on support in order to work some magic on the right wing, especially if and when he is giving the most sought after commodity of all for an attacker player: space in front of him. There were signs on Monday that AOC is slowly rediscovering his form and – closely related – his confidence.

Reading allowed us a lot of space on the left wing and boy did we benefit from it. When Gibbs went forward to support our attack the rest of our defence stayed mostly in position, which gave the defence a well-needed stability. Something Bould will have been pleased with.

Vermaelen and Mertesacker more conventional

In general, I thought both the BFG and TV played more conventionally on Monday. They concentrated hard on keeping discipline and there was a strong focus on pushing up and getting Reading to walk constantly in their off-site traps. This worked out very well for most of the game, but as the two goals we conceded showed; further fine-tuning is a must.

It was also clear that TV ventured forward less than usual and this might be another compromise between Bould and Wenger.

Arteta even more our orthodox holding midfielder and Wilshere handed the biggest role of all

I thought Arteta did really well again on Monday. When he is allowed to keep it simple and sit in front of the defence he can be very effective for us. He has got a great positional sense and uses his intelligence really well in sussing out danger. He plays in such a way that you almost do not spot him for large parts of the game, as he allows the team – and us as spectators – to concentrate on the attacking opportunities ahead. We rely heavily on him which of course is a concern, but that is a discussion for another day.

The biggest role on the night was given to Jack. I cannot tell you how much I love this guy right now. What a difference he makes with his drive, intelligence and ability. Yet, he looked so fragile at times on Monday, and we have to wonder whether his body will be able to take the continuous physical challenges he has to face in this pivotal role.

Jack was everywhere and covered the area between attack and defence tremendously well on Monday. Supported by Arteta, he ensured we could keep continuous pressure on the Reading defence, and he was instrumental in winning back possession in midfield as well.

Cazorla played a lot closer to our CF

It was great to see Santi play so close to our CF, Theo, against Reading. I thought Santi played in the DB10 role on Monday and he did remind me of him at times. I did not know he would be so effective in the opposition’s box, but his runs into it, and his general awareness and prowess to finish off opportunities, were a very welcome surprise (at least to me). On top of that, he was just as effective in what he is more known for: finding clever through balls and dictating our attacking play in general. It truly was a top performance by the little Spaniard on Monday.

Jack playing in the lynchpin role and working his socks off together with Arteta, allowed Santi this free role and boy did he reward us for it!

One question that needs answering in the next few weeks is whether Santi can play as close to Giroud as he did to Theo. Theo is a more mobile and faster striker and can exploit space so well: he makes intelligent runs which are very hard to track by the opposition’s defenders, and for Santi, Theo is a dream to play with – just as Henry was for Bergkamp – as he both loves to feed the ball to him in space and likes to benefit himself from the space Theo creates for others.

Of course, we would also need to see how the combination of Walcott and Cazorla in the centre of our attack would work against the disciplined ‘park the bus’ teams, but a more permanent switch towards Cazorla in the hole and three more fluid attackers up-front could well be the way forward.

Plenty of food for thought, I hope! So. let’s discuss. 🙂

Written by: Total Arsenal.

Arsenal’s recovery will start against QPR – Time to get behind the team again!

It absolutely amazes me how much ‘structural’ dissatisfaction there is in Gooner-world at the moment. Just like anybody else, I am of course unhappy about the last two results, but for so many fellow Gooners this seems to have triggered a black depression of epidemic proportions.

Image

The reality is we lost two games in a row, and there is no reason whatsoever to believe this is not just a blip. This is the team that beat Liverpool and WH away, drew against Man City, and had some other fine results lately; playing some lovely football in all of these games. We simply have not become a rubbish team overnight: I am just not having it.

We are 6 points behind the number two in the PL and are second in our CL qualification group. We are suffering from a lack of form and confidence, but we are a big club with the second most experienced PL manager at the helm, and we have been here many times before. We will get over it and grow from strength to strength over the next few months.

Admittedly, the football we played in the last two games has been poor, and I have explained in previous posts what the most probable causes are for this. Once our wings are properly functioning again and either Jack or Diaby motor us on in midfield, this team will by firing on all cylinders again.

I am not jus saying this because I love the club and am by nature a glass half-full kind of person. I just believe in our squad and manager, to get us back out of this again, and go on a winning run.

I reckon the big, structural dissatisfaction stems from the realisation that we are probably, once more, not ready to win something major this season. Expectations are always high, and those encouraging performances against Pool and Citeh, and a few others, made us all start to believe that this new team had fully settled in, and we would win some fine silverware this season. This might still happen, but the chances are not that high at the moment.

We are a team in transition, whether we like it or not, and it will take time before our current team will find consistency in their performances; so needed if we want to win anything. Our team is almost unrecognisable from that of 24 months ago, and it just takes time to make it gel in such a way that all squad members can play at their best in Arsene’s system and philosophy of football.

I totally expect us to get back to winning ways against QPR on Saturday, and I think we will surprise a few people the weekend after next, when we take on the Mancs. Players will return to help us improve in key areas and Wenger and Bould will work hard to improve our current system, the quality of our football, and the levels of confidence and form of the players.

I totally respect that many don’t share the same believe I have in our squad and the abilities of our manager and his assistants, but this Gooners is confident we’ll bounce back in style from now on; starting with QPR tomorrow.

Whatever you feel or think, the team needs us to support them with all we have on Saturday.

Come On You Rip-Roaring Gunners!! 

Total Arsenal.

No focus and disjointed all over the park: Arsene and Steve have a job to do!

Image

We have all learned over the years that supporting Arsenal is a roller-coaster ride, but last night’s unexpected woeful performance against the Canaries was nevertheless a painful stab in our Gooner hearts.

Away games after long inter-lull periods are often tricky for the top teams, as they have many internationals who only return late mid-week – often tired and carrying knocks – whereas the smaller teams tend to have lots of time to prepare for their home game with more or less the entire squad.

But of course, this cannot be a valid excuse, as we should expect Wenger and Bould to both make the right call on who is fit enough to play and make sure the team will start the game with the right game plan, focus and motivation.

As a team Arsenal failed miserably last night: the whole was definitely less than the sum of its parts.

I would struggle, though, if I had to pick a player who did not work hard enough yesterday. Individual work rates did not seem to be the problem – but as a team, something was missing. We never looked focussed or cohesive throughout the game. In fact, we looked rusty, toothless and disjointed all over the pitch, and totally deserved to lose.

It is utterly disappointing that Arsenal were not better prepared mentally for this game, and I tend to blame Wenger and Bould for this.

Last night I started to sense we were not going to win this game, as early as five minutes after Arsenal conceded Holt’s goal. It was against the run of play, but, unfortunately, we have become vulnerable again to conceding this sort of goals (ManCity, Chelsea x2, West Ham, and now low-on-confidence Norwich).

Conceding that goal should have told the whole team they needed to fight once again to somehow take the three points back home to London – as we did so well against West Ham in our last PL game – but we never lifted our game enough to achieve it.

In a nutshell: Arsenal were never focussed and ‘together’ enough to win last night’s game.

Not only were our wings thrust-less, we also lacked panache and energy to find a way through the Norwich yellow and green hedges in the middle of the pitch. There was simply not enough movement with or without the ball to trouble the Norwich busses, which was very disappointing to watch.

A very disappointing performance and a very disappointing result, but most of all I am disappointed in Wenger and Bould. Sending out a team that lacks focus and is disjointed all over the park is simply not good enough.

Some perspective is needed, though. It is so easy to jump to big conclusions about how rubbish everything is at Arsenal right now. But a team that beat Liverpool and West Ham away and played fantastic football against ManCity only a few weeks ago, still has plenty of credit left. It is now about how we respond to that unacceptable performance at Carrow Road in the next few games.

The players have a role to play, but I have little doubt that most if not all the players in our first team squad are genuine hard workers who give their all. We also have plenty of very good footballers and there is good strength in depth.

Image

The changes we need to see are mainly the responsibility of Wenger and Bould. We need better tactical and mental preparation for games, and we need to become a lot better at absorbing forced changes to our formation. Two and a half month into the season, we should not suffer so much from injuries to the likes of Szczesny, Diaby and Gibbs: good management is about making the right substitutions without the system of our football being adversely affected.

Arsene and Steve: over to you.

Total Arsenal.