Arsenal's style of play has been very intriguing this season. We've noticed a very different approach from Arsène's team and it was basically a follow on from the second half of last season when winning became the only option to get back into the Champions League. Speaking of which you can buy last season's lovely football kit at free ads site
We would have been mad to throw that formula away at the start of the season and the results are shown by our league position and distance away from the top of the table today.
At the start of the season we had a mixture of pressing at the right time but also knowing when to drop off and get behind the ball. The players clearly benefiting from hours put in during training sessions. In recent weeks we have seen far less pressing and more controlled possession, wearing teams down, scoring and then dropping off. Usually being able to score the second later on in the game. We have had more 2-0 score lines than any other this season by some way I believe.
After the Sunderland match on the weekend I wrote about how I missed our positive intent, I dared even suggest that I was a little bored about our style of late (quite surprised I didn't receive stick for that to be honest) but I noted that in the last two games we have started pressing high up the pitch, winning the ball back in the opponents third and playing at speed from there. We have looked far more threatening as a team for this reason. I wasn't sure if this was an intentional switch or if circumstance dictated until I clicked on an article from Arsenal.com with Wilshere being interviewed.
“Even against Bayern, we were on top for the first 20 minutes and had a great chance to score but didn’t, so we wanted to continue that [against Sunderland], stay high and win the ball back,” he said. “Once we won the ball back in their half, we always looked dangerous.
“We have some big games coming up, we [need to] continue with the same work ethic off the ball, try to win it back straight away and press them.
“You see the best teams in the world like Barcelona and Bayern Munich do that and we have to try to do that as well, because when we get in their half we have the players to hurt them.”
Ahh I see now, it all makes sense. But when did we decide to do this and why? Perhaps my theory a few weeks ago rings true, just a little later than I imagined. I wondered if the team had been playing with the handbrake on to conserve energy for the run in.
Arsène Wenger's quotes yesterday may also be linked to this.
"Let's go for the 11 games with a real desire to do well in every single game - then you have a good chance."
Only 11 games to go ey? Doesn't sound like a great deal does it? We've some very tough fixtures coming up so it is going to be interesting seeing how we cope with playing at such intensity every week. I think it is often overlooked how much it takes out of players playing such a high tempo pressing game, it is why we have often done well at the end of season's. We have fallen out of all competitions so we find ourselves in Liverpool's position of only a game a week, so the players can give 100% and have plenty of time for recuperation.
Ideally we would have a squad good enough to rotate all positions without much of a drop off, that way we can play aggressively in each game with the players sharing the work load. Maybe this is why when we have made changes to the side we have often produced. Thinking back to Tottenham FA Cup, Liverpool same competition and then Sunderland in the last game. Large amounts of rotation in the past often totally disrupted our game but as Arsène has said, we have a tight squad with not much drop off in quality all over the pitch.
Tomas Rosicky is the perfect example of this. Every single time I watch him play I slap my leg with disappointment that be cannot be a regular in our first team. Mesut Özil can do things with a ball that Rosicky has never or will never be able to do but at the same time I think we miss what Rosicky gives us from number 10 at times.
It must be so enjoyable for a player to play with him. You get on the ball and all of a sudden Rosicky appears out of nowhere in space, facing you open for a pass. You give it to him and after he has spun past someone with that dragging thing he does (you know what one I mean) he rolls it back into your path, and away he goes circling the pitch for space.
I am chuffed to bits that he is about to sign a new deal. When he plays you don't get the sense that he is 33 years old. If I didn't know any different and someone told me he was 27 then I would have no reason to doubt them.
I really believe that Rosicky would compliment Özil so much but as Arsène sees them both as number 10s, it is very difficult to get them both in the same side.
As good as it was having Rosicky out there on the weekend it will be great to have Özil refreshed and back in the side. The criticism of him has been crazy. How long ago was the Manchester United game? Who was our best player that night? How long ago was the Southampton game? He was the only one pushing us forward that second half.
Contrary to popular belief, I get the sense that Mesut is actually about to go on a good run of form. There are some good signs. As I already explained he has been our best player in recent games, started the Bayern game in good shape but the Ox will help him play his game. The pre assist for Podolski's goal against Liverpool. Us playing high up the pitch with more runners will also help him massively.
I am pretty certain that we won't have to wait until very long before his doubters go missing. That is what tends to happen you see.
Football is incredibly short sighted. We are in the middle of building a team. Just because the transfer window is closed it doesn't mean that our work is done. Mesut Özil has been bought as the creative hub of this team for years. Arsène wasn't able to get all his pieces in the summer/Jan window. Give this side another runner/goal scorer as well as Walcott and Özil and Giroud would look like different animals altogether.
Apparently we were after Pedro from Barcelona. We went in for him in the summer and enquired in January. In January Barcelona had a number of wide players injured so our advances were rejected at least this is the story I was told. Given what Arsène said about Suarez being the supposed compliment to Giroud rather than the replacement may add a touch more credibility to the stor. I have written about this before and usually try and avoid transfer speculation if I can help it but Pedro Rodríguez Ledesma is such a perfect fit for Arsenal. A quick wide forward who bursts into goalscoring positions instead of only being attracted to the ball. He is 26 so appraoching his best years. I hope we go back in for him, but this is discussion for the summer and I am veering way off track. My point was.. erm.. oh yeah about Özil and that there is plenty more to come. It's hard to stick to a point when I ramble instead of having an actual point I guess.
On Rosicky is staying, Mertesacker is more than likely to sign a new deal and Arsène will be around to move us into this new phase. They all have thumbs up from me that's for sure. The one absentee is that of Bacary Sagna who is unlikely to sign a new deal. If he doesn't then it will be a massive shame. He has become Mr dependable. We almost take his consistency for granted and it has been over such a long period of time.
The only potential positive for replacing Sagna is that should we buy the right player we could get more attacking productivity from that position. Our right back is a big part of how we break teams down and is often the teams winger when we are in the final third but clearly I'd much rather we signed Bac for a further 2-3 years. He might want a fresh challenge now and whatever he does I'm sure his decision will be fully respected by the Arsenal faithful.
Right that is enough incoherent nattering for one night.