So the new season is here and its been a bit of a slow start unfortunately. Most of the team is still looking in pre-season mode. It was an odd sight, seeing how wayward our passing was on Saturday and how slow our tempo was yesterday. But when analysing it and looking at what Arsene has been saying it is in my opinion because of three reasons; the different fitness levels of the squad, the adaptation to the new signings, and the change of the shape of the midfield.
As a football addict I loved the World Cup, but ever since our pre-season has started Arsene has gone on and on about not having enough time to get any squad members, who reached the knockout stages, ready for the start of the season. And he has been proved right even since the 2nd day of the Emirates Cup where we saw our French lads struggle to get to grips with the pace of the game. Giroud especially who, due to his incredible workload over the last 12 months, has had a gentler fitness plan then others and it is unfortunately taking its toll right now. In both games our tempo was slow due to a lack of movement and taking a couple of extra touches to control the ball. After the usual pointless international break we should have the entire squad fully fit, just hoping that until then the fitness issue doesn't cost us too much.
Recently I have discovered an app called timehop which has allowed me to view my tweets from a year ago and the contrast in reaction to our transfer business couldn't be greater. Last summer we were going into a new season having spent no money and major holes in midfield, that led to the famous Villa defeat and the crazy obsession with arsenalfantv. However going into this season we have made 4 smart signings, that have replaced 3 outgoing players with suitable replacements/upgrades and another big signing from Spain. There is no complaints from me about the transfers so far but they do lead to some problems in terms of gelling. Arsene famously said last season "But in our job there is a technical risk when you buy more than three players because you unbalance a little bit the stability of your squad." It was made out to be sour grapes but we are seeing how right he was right now.
To start with we have Debuchy. He has a slightly different style to the player he replaced, in that when we have the ball his positioning is much higher up the pitch. This has led us to switch the majority of our play from the left to the right but has also had an affect on how we switch the play to that side. With Sagna when one of our midfielders had the ball, he was usually level with play, where as Debuchy is usually looking for a diagonal ball which saw a lot of passes going out of play on the right hand side as our player's instincts were to play it square. It seems like a small factor but we use our fullbacks for width and they are important in stretching the play so that our midfielders can get the space they need to win us games
Furthermore with Chambers being so young it has resulted in Kosceilny having to take charge at the back in a way he hasn't had to do since he joined us. We have seen examples of his inexperience with this responsibility with our sudden relapse into conceding goals at set pieces vs Monaco and Palace. Palace being the most obvious one where Kosceilny was trying to direct people without fully being aware of runners near him and was unable to put more pressure on Hangeland when he scored. Its instances like that, that make you fully appreciate what a defender Mertesacker is, with his ability to be an outstanding defender while constantly leading the back line, and that I believe we will look a lot stronger at set pieces with him in the side.
Lastly we have the most exciting new addition in Alexis Sanchez, now he fits into the first part of the post as he has had a lack of pre-season. But despite showing flashes of his brilliance he is still adapting to the movements of his new teammates and his role in the side. It's a wonderful sight to watch him run with the ball, and when he settles in the combination with Giroud, Ozil and Ramsey, he will be incredible to watch. However we will all have to be a little bit patient .
Another reason why Sanchez and other players in our front 3 are slightly struggling, is the new shape of the midfield 3. Last season we played with a double pivot and a number 10 with the arrival of Ozil. With Ozil not being ready for the start of the season we have replaced him with Wilshere and gone to a much flatter middle 3 to try and get the best out of him. However I feel that the positives of the change are far outweighed by the negative effects it has on the rest of the midfield and especially the front 3. I feel that Wilshere covers the same areas that Ramsey likes to be in during the game and limits his brilliance. Furthermore it leaves the front 3 very isolated and this makes someone like Cazorla appear to play worse then he actually is. He is at his best cutting in and playing quick 1-2s with Ozil or Ramsey however this isn't happening with the new shape. So on Saturday I would prefer us to have Cazorla as our number 10 and replace Wilshere with Ox on the left. But unfortunately I think Arsene will stick with the a similar game plan.
I'm aware this may come across as a negative look at the start of our season, but I want it to come across as way of saying our minor issues are very short term and when they are over we will have a superb team ready for hopefully a great season and some more silverware