Friday, December 07, 2007
Rosicky Holds the Key to Riverside Lock
By 1970’s Gooner
Eleven days ago Arsenal faced a Wigan side that tasted defeat in its previous seven games. Absent from this game were two of the most creative midfielders Arsene Wenger has ever assembled: Cesc Fabregas and the Minsk Maradona, Alexander Hleb. Also missing was the magnificent Flamini.
What was evident during that game was that there was neither leadership nor forward penetration coming from the midfield. There was no one to take up the mantle and dictate play the way that Fabregas usually provides.
Both Denilson and Diarra, the chosen pair for the two central midfield positions, were content to win the ball and play it safe.
It wasn’t until Wenger moved a more forceful and creative player, Rosicky, into that area behind Adebayor and the midfield when things changed.
Arsenal suddenly had forward movement and urgency and as a result were circling round Wigan’s area pushing them back more and more. In the 80th minute Gallas stepped up to score and it was game over.
A week later Arsenal traveled to Birmingham to face a very strong and in form Aston Villa. The starting eleven however included two players that were missing against Wigan: Flamini and Hleb.
Flamini’s tireless and powerful display along with Hleb’s fantastic trickery and forward creativity make the difference and Arsenal’s brilliance and domination results in two goals in the first half.
It wasn’t until Hleb’s injury in the second half that Villa assumed the initiative. But Arsenal were already a goal ahead by then and only had to hold out for about 30 minutes.
At Newcastle four days later Arsene, had to choose a side that could not include Flamini and Hleb. Just like against Wigan, when these two players were also missing, he went again for more defensive and destructive players in central midfield. On this occasion Gilberto and Diarra.
Rosicky was, as for the Wigan game, again marginalised on the left wing.
The end result, as feared by many, including this site, was that there was no creativity again (other sites were predicting an easy win even with a “depleted midfield”).
There was no one to dictate play in the crucial central areas of the field starving the forwards of the service they deserved.
As Arsene Wenger said after the game:
“I feel that technically we did not find the right solutions when we won the ball back to get them out of position. That made their physical game easier for them”.
Newcastle are not Wigan. They played tenaciously and pressed Arsenal in all areas inclusive high up the pitch. Just like Aston Villa did in the second half. And more importantly Arsenal did not and could not be creative enough to score a second goal.
On Sunday Arsene has to choose a side to face Middlesbrough which again cannot contain Flamini and Hleb.
Will he still insist on keeping the only remaining creative midfielder away from the area where the team is clearly lacking?
An area from where he could provide the link between the forward line and the middle of the pitch that was so missing against Newcastle?
Football coaches say that a lot of the time they have to adjust their tactics and formations to suit the players they have available. And it looks that Arsene may now have to twig the formation a bit to accommodate Rosicky in a more central role.
And the system that will allow him to do that is a 4 2 1 3 formation with two central defensive midfielders (any two from Gilberto, Diarra, Denilson and Song) sitting behind Rosicky with three forwards in front of him: Adebayor flanked by Eboue and say Walcott (not Eduardo).
Middlesbrough are not the type of team nor do they have the players to pressure Arsenal up the pitch like Newcastle and Aston Villa did. And in ex Arsenal boy Alliadiere and the Turk Tuncay they do not possess a particularly potent strike force.
However Arsenal will still need to be creative and Rosicky can play a significant role in making it seven away points out of a possible nine.
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Six changes Wenger made this season are propelling Arsenal to the title.