You know the Arsenal song “good old Arsenal”.. We just changed the words to reflect what we felt last night watching the game. A lot of pretty patterns woven around the pitch, a goal up and then the players take their foot off the gas and assume that the game is won. Is this not the pattern that characterised nearly all of Arsene’s teams over the eleven or so years he is at the club? When the team consists of younger players who are prone to mistakes, a one nil to the Arsenal can not feature prominently down the list of Arsenal’s fixture results.
Yet they could have wrapped up the game much much earlier than when Fabregas decided to take matters into his own hands on the 73rd minute. Lack of leadership on the pitch was again evident last night and it was very obvious during the spell prior to and immediately after conceding, when heads dropped a little bit. Even with Henry in the team this is an ingredient that has been sorely missed since Vieira’s departure. Can Fabregas take up the mantle?
As we have advocated before, a 4 5 1 formation even at home suits Arsenal for the moment since the right players are not currently available to play other systems. And 4 5 1 can of course be a flexible formation when players have the mobility and the nous to interchange places and transform it into a more creative system. And of course Diaby last night was not, as some baffled commentators before the game were saying, the forward player in a 4 4 2 line up. He became, after Fabregas, the most influential player on the pitch until his injury forced him out of the game as early as the half hour mark. But he had done enough by then to create the first goal winning the ball in midfield in a, dare we say it, Vieira way. Clearly Wenger will have a nice problem next year in how to accommodate both Silva and Diaby in the same eleven. Or will one have to give way?
Clearly Diaby’s exit and Baptista’s introduction into the game affected the way Arsenal played. It changed the formation into an orthodox 4 4 2 where not only Diaby’s force and tackling were missed but Baptista’s lack of control and relative static approach affected the team’s effectiveness going forward.
There were three other weaknesses in the team last night which are not new of course but they need to be addressed if Arsenal are to challenge next year.
Defensive errors are becoming quite common and their source is not only from the relatively less experienced Clichy and Eboue. Lehmann’s kick out of his area was pathetic but Toure’s concentration was lacking because he was taken aback by Barton’s return of the ball to Johnson just outside the area. As a result Toure was easily bypassed thus forcing Eboue to come out of position in order to cover, allowing Beasley to steal in behind him for the goal. A championship winning team cannot afford to make such naïve defensive errors and certainly cannot concede on average nearly a goal a game! The exact ratio for Arsenal is 0.91 as compared to Man Utd’s 0.69, Liverpool’s 0.66 and Chelsea’s 0.59 per game!
Hleb again put in a tepid performance and only contributed positively when things were on the up especially for Arsenal’s 3rd goal. But he needs to improve significantly if he is to avoid spending time on the bench next year.
Lots of chances created again but their conversion was not up to standard. We are not worried about this at the moment as when the goal scorers return this can be rectified. Especially if the forward line is complemented with quality signings in the summer. We would have been deeply worried if there were no chances created!
Its letting them in that needs looking into!