Why was Arsenal not really playing well in the first half but changed it round in the second?
The usual reasons why a team, down on the score, comes out in the second half rejuvenated include a rousing half time speech by the manager and of course the need to go for it as they have got nothing to lose. Yet for Arsenal’s game against Tottenham there are additionally two significant reasons. They are interrelated but can also stand on their own.
The first and obvious one is that Fabregas came on late in the first half and started dictating the game as only he knows and can. Before his introduction there was, dare we say it, no leadership, no direction and no grand puppeteer to pull the strings. He makes Arsenal tick and is the most influential player in the squad. We put him ahead of Henry in this respect. The worrying thing is that there is no adequate replacement for Fabregas at the moment leaving a big gap if he ever becomes unavailable for long spells. Maybe Denilson in a few years?
Yet we feel the second reason is just as important and it involves the formation. Wenger started the game in a 4 4 2 set up with Ljumberg supporting Adebayor up front. As we have advocated before, a 4 5 1 formation suits Arsenal for the moment since the right players are not currently available to play other systems.
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 Ljumberg is not really up to it having lost his pace and with it his ability to score. So you can see where we are coming from. The forced introduction of Fabregas for Ljumberg due to the recurrence of the latter’s hamstring injury proved to be a defining moment for the way the game progressed from then on. The formation either intentionally or by default was switched to 4 5 1 and everything clicked in place and ticked like a clock. In fact this is the reverse of what happened in the game against Man city where Diaby’s injury forced the introduction of Baptista and a switch to 4 4 2 from 4 5 1. Arsenal did not look as effective from then on.
Again we are of the opinion that Wenger got the substitutions wrong. Taking out Rosicky for Baptista in the 66th minute removed a very committed and potentially dangerous midfielder. In addition it left Arsenal’s most under performing player on the field! If rather he took Hleb off and switched Rosicky to the right then he might have stuck home one of those shooting opportunities that fell to Hleb late on in the game when Tottenham opened up at the back searching for the equaliser.
And putting Senderos on for Hleb in the 90th minute when the defence was not really in need for reinforcements removed Arsenal’s counterattacking capability even for those four minutes of injury time! It’s alright to be wise after the event but hell this beginning to be like a de ja vu? Remember the Reading goal at the Emirates?
Again chances were created but their conversion was not up to standard. As we said before it would have been much more worrying if there were no chances created. Its letting the goals in that is worrying. This needs careful attention if Arsenal are to be serious challengers next year.