Arsenal have so far collected 16 points 11 games so far. And there have been some really dismal performances particularly against Norwich and at Old Trafford. This is Arsenal’s worst start to a season in nearly 30 years. Predictably most fans have hit out at the lack of spending and also at the clubs decision to sell our best player to a rival (Are they our rival anymore?). But what really worries me more is the way Arsene has handled the players currently at our disposal.
I look at our team and it really is not all that bad. Yes there are a couple of positions where we really could do with a top class players and the points table is definitely not a reflection of the quality we possess. We have played really poorly as a team and we can’t blame injuries or poor refereeing decisions for the current state of performance. Sagna was injured but Jenkinson did an admirable job filling in for him. I don’t think the likes of Diaby, Rosicky and Gibbs being injured can be used as an excuse especially in the case of first two.
Inspite of the plenty of goals we conceded recently I think we have marginally improved in defense compared to last season(Not saying much but still). Considering for most parts they had to play with Mannone in goal I think they have done okay. Most of the goals we have conceded this season have been due to individual errors instead of Shambolic team defending with the main culprits being Vermaelen and Koscienly. And since Gibbs got injured opposition have really exploited the left hand side of our defense.
I really can’t understand why Wenger wouldn’t switch Sagna into that position and play Jenkinson at right back. We have played Sagna at Left back previously and I am really bemused why Arsene is persisting with Vermaelen there who has really struggled for form. And as far the goalkeeping situation is concerned its incredible that 5 years on since Lehmann left we still haven’t sorted out the GK position. Szczesny is talented but he too has made far too many mistakes and the fact there is nobody too challenge him is also not helping.
From an attacking point of view it has been very poor showing from us. The performances against Norwich(away), Schalke(Home), Man Utd(Away) was the worst I have seen Arsenal play in a very long time. Even during the four consecutive 0-0 draws during the 2008-2009 season we played reasonably well and created chances and that was inspite having the likes of Diaby, Eboue, Denilson and Song in our midfield. So why are we looking so poor offensively inspite of having Podolski, Giroud, Cazorla, Arteta?
The tempo of our game has been really slow right from the start of the season and it gradually got worse. We pass the ball around at such a slow pace that it gives the opposition enough time to organize and regroup themselves. We have to start the passing the ball way quicker and it is possible with the players we have at our disposal.
Another factor that has hampered our offensive play is the lack of movement. Except Theo and occasionally Giroud hardly any runs are made behind the opposition back four. Podolski has been really static in his movement. And gone are the days when the likes of Vieira, Gilberto or Cesc would make runs from the deep and dragging defenders away,.We have witnessed nothing of that sort from Cazorla, Arteta or Ramsey. This is something that clearly be worked on. Same could be said about fullbacks too. It is amazing how rarely our fullbacks venture forward and contribute little offensively and yet are caught out when the opposition counter attacks.
I don’t really understand why Arsene persists with the 4-3-3 formation regardless of the score line or opposition. We could be 2 goals down chasing a game and yet we continue to deploy a lone striker upfront. Recently for the first time in a very long time against reading things got really desperate and we decided to play 4-4-2 with Chamakh and Giroud upfront. And it worked too great effect in that game. Now I am not suggesting that changing our formation into 4-4-2 will always result in success but atleast it gives the opponents something different to worry about.
Recently we played QPR, the worst team in the league with 1 striker upfront. Surely we could play 4-4-2 against the likes of QPR. i personally prefer us to start with 4-4-2. Some might counter by saying that it makes us defensively vulnerable. Well, the goals we conceded in a season, since we switched to 4-3-3 in the 2009-2010 season has been 41,43 and 49 goals conceded respectively. So if anything switching to 4-3-3 has made us more vulnerable defensively.
And for me biggest problem at the club in recent years is the fact that players continue to get selected week in week out regardless of how poorly they have been playing. Sometimes it is due to lack of squad and options but it has really affected us. One of the first names that will spring to the mind will be Eboue and Denilson. We have been really poor in the recent weeks and not one player in the squad has lost his place. Ramsey keeps coming on and has really looked out of sorts. Podolski continues to start in spite of Arshavin impressing whenever he has got an opportunity. This is a trend that simply has to change.
Spending money can improve the squad and solve some of our problems especially the goalkeeping and striking department. But some of the factors that I mentioned are things that can be worked upon without us having to spend money. Arsene has been far too loyal and nice to these players. It is time for Arsene to get ruthless again.
Mean Lean's Response
A mixture of views that I disagree and agree with, thank you.
I absolutely agree with you on the movement issue causing plenty of our problems. It is something I have spoken about a number of times, and it is this reason why I disagree with your next point on our system being the issue.
The 4-2-3-1 would not be a problem if we had three forward players all making intelligent runs off the ball at the right time on a regular basis. Having one striker would turn into having three strikers. This for me, is what they are supposed to be and just wingers designed to stretch the pitch out and cover fullbacks.
We have seen our center midfield pick the ball up, look to the left and find Lukas Podolski moving towards the ball to collect in into feet, then drop it back to his fullback and the same can be said of Theo although not as much. If we had two strikers also moving towards the ball then we would have a continuation of all ball possession but little end product but just dressed up in a different system.
The 4-3-3 system is hardly an issue at Barcelona for example where they have a striker who is the best non striker, striker that I have ever seen. That system does not only work due to their wonderful technique but because they have runners continuously darting into the opposition penalty box and it is why their wide players (Villa, Pedro, Sanchez etc) score so many goals.
If we could get this right then I think talk of our system being an issue would vanish into thin air. Why we are reluctant to make those off the ball runs often enough is a mystery to me though.
And one last point on the manager sticking with players, well this is certainly not new. This has been Arsene's way since he arrived at Arsenal. Players like Toure, Pires, Song, Henry,Jenkinson, Koscielny and many many more have come through the other side some haven't.
The truth of the matter is that we have key personnel on the sidelines so any selection decisions have been taken out of the managers hands. Would Ramsey have played so often in recent weeks had Tomas Rosicky, Abou Diaby, Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain been fit? I doubt it.
Like I said in a recent piece, we are a squad with issues that need addressing, perhaps some of it via the transfer window but what I am certain of is that we have not seen the best of what we already have. The sooner we go on a winning the run the better.
See if you can start your own winning run on some of Ladbrokes football games like the Soccer Safari and Shoot slot games. If you can then you'll be in for some great prizes. To start your winning run simply follow the link over to Ladbrokes.