By 1970’s Gooner
You are only as strong as your weakest link. This is certainly very true in the highly pressured and ultra competitive Premier League where your every weakness is immediately exploited.
Arsenal will enter this encounter with some forced and maybe unforced weak links. But first some background.
Both teams are likely to field the same formation: 4 4 1 1 but one would expect that the away team’s approach to the game would be a more conservative one where the support striker is more likely to drop back into midfield so as to strategically congest this vital area of the pitch.
On the other hand Arsenal’s support striker will be inclined to do the opposite and be more attack minded. In this respect there is a real danger that this game could follow the same pattern as Arsenal’s previous encounter at Blackburn.
During that game Arsenal lost the midfield battle which meant that they could not dominate and dictate play as per usual.
And here is where we come up against Arsenal’s first weakness.
The best way to get round this problem is to have at least one strong and powerful ball winner in central midfield who would also release the ball early to the support striker or the wide midfielders so as to avoid the congested middle of the pitch.
Flamini is a willing and energetic midfielder but there is no comparison when Diaby or Gilberto are fit. Wenger, during his interview for the game on Arsenal.com, has not included Diaby in the list of players unavailable for this game (Gilberto may be on the bench due to lack of fitness).
If Diaby is indeed available then it is imperative that Wenger selects him to start. His strength and ball winning skills will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
If he or Gilberto do not start then expect more of the same.
The second weakness that has been very evident in all of Arsenal’s games so far is RVP’s utilization as a lone striker.
He has often been isolated and this has unbalanced the team.
He should be playing the support striker’s role where he is most effective.
If Adebayor, who is now fit, is chosen to lead the line then this will go a long way in restoring the required balance.
Senderos’s first start of the season in place of the injured Gallas is the third weakness.
He still looks prone to lapses of concentration and positional awareness; the latter being crucial to him due to his relative lack of pace.
In a way this is a correctible weakness since he is deputising for Gallas (more on the lack of central defenders in another posting).
But Arsenal’s fourth weakness doesn’t look like being corrected in the near future. At least not in the traditional way.
The wide left midfield position is now being filled by players that are not natural wingers. Although Hleb has played well in the support role behind the striker he has reverted to form when pushed to the wide areas.
The players selected to fill the wide midfield positions, probably Walcott (Eboue is injured) and Hleb may prove more significant than normal.
This is because Manchester City appears more vulnerable in the left and right back positions rather than in central defence where the excellent Richards and Dunn are likely to be hard to break down.
I would therefore prefer that Clichy is selected for the left sided position as he is far more penetrative than Hleb ever will be. At least this could be an option during the game if things do not as go as planned (Hoyte could play left back).
Another option that Wenger could consider is to try Eduardo.
Some would consider Almunia’s first start of the season as being another weakness. I beg to disagree. I consider this as a positive.
For one he will be replacing an injured and error prone goalkeeper who was solely responsible for Arsenal’s two goals conceded so far.
Otherwise Arsenal would have had the best defensive record along with today’s opponents so far.
But having watched all the pre season games I am also of the opinion that Almunia is a vastly improved keeper.
I have every confidence that he will prove to be equal to the task and assume the number one position at Arsenal. Sooner than we think.
In fact the real goalkeeping weakness for this game lies with young Schmeichel who looked unsure against Manchester United and weak on crosses.
Arsenal should use their wide midfielders and full backs going forward to by pass the congested midfield and exploit the opponent's weaknesses themselves.
If they put the full backs and goalkeeper to the test then a lot of joy is to be had.
Lehmann’s clanger hides Wenger’s and Arsenal’s sins
Walcott and Clichy should be the wide midfielders against Blackburn
Who should partner Robin Van Persie?