Monday, December 03, 2007
Six changes Wenger made this season are propelling Arsenal to the title
By 1970’s Gooner
Back in May of this year when Arsenal were stumbling to fourth place in the Premier League I felt the need to write an article on what Arsenal needed to do to challenge for the coming season.
It was written in frustration of the so many things that Arsene Wenger needed to fix that to me and many other fellow gooners were so obviously apparent.
In that article all Arsenal’s weaknesses were deemed to be correctable as a lot of the changes needed involved a change of attitude or better coaching and organisation on the pitch rather than radical surgery in the personnel.
So what has changed from last season to this?
- The defence has tightened up
- Learned how to break up packed defenses
- Now kill teams off when on top
- Have become more physical and learned how to win ugly
- Hit the ground running
- Goals are shared round
Due to the size of this post it will be published in two parts. This is the first part consisting of the first three changes.
1. The defence has tightened up
One reason for this improvement is that Clichy and Toure have gained from their experience of one more year in the premier League. And Gallas is beginning to get a decent run again without the injuries of last season.
The signing of Sagna has additionally brought more experienced and better quality defending into the back four.
But the most important factor which has been very noticeable this season is an integrated approach to defending; where all ten outfield players perform their defensive duties when the team loses the ball.
Prime examples are the tracking back performed by players like Hleb, Rosicky and even Adebayor. Something that was not so apparent last season.
As any football coach will testify this is the best way to achieve maximum defensive efficiency.
2. Learned how to break up packed defenses
Arsenal were top of the mini league last season consisting of the top 4 sides! It’s those points dropped against the smaller teams that were crucial.
The reason being that the smaller teams usually played with ten men behind the ball and adopted the physical approach rather than play a more open the game.
Blackburn did not adopt this strategy at the Emirates and they were hit for 6. They learned their lesson and changed their tactics for the Cup games and got through with a goal in the last few minutes of the replay!
So for this season it was crucial for Wenger to find the way to break up packed defences. There have been four noticeable changes in Arsenal’s style of play which have contributed hugely towards achieving this.
One is the speed with which Arsenal are putting together their attacks after winning the ball. The desire to pass the other teams to death and create pretty patterns just for the sake of it is not so apparent this season.
Secondly there is variation in the style of play. Like crossing the ball for a headed attempt at goal as shown below with Adebayor's powerful header against Aston Villa.
Or even, as has been attempted sometimes this season, using the long ball more often.
Thirdly, taking advantage of set plays has significantly improved. Arsenal have begun to score goals from free kicks and corners something that was distinctly lacking the previous season.
Last but not least the Arsenal players are no longer afraid to shoot nor are they trying to pass the ball into the net or score the goal of the year each and every time!
We have this season been privileged to see ugly goals, deflected goals, headed goals and even beautiful goals.
3. Now kill teams off when on top
The beautiful passing game and overpowering football that Wenger’s teams produce allows them so much domination during the course of a game that they lull themselves into a false sense of security.
And last season they relaxed too much and too early when they were only one nil up. But the opponents knew that they will get their chance and like small armies, who out of necessity adopt guerrilla tactics, they only needed one strike. And then it was back to the pumps time again!
This is more an attitude thing rather than anything else. It indeed has been very evident in almost all of Wenger’s teams over the years as they all have been young and inexperienced. It stems from what we would term “the arrogance of youth”
This attitude has, more often than not, been supplanted with a singular desire to get ahead and then stay in front by relentlessly continuing to pursue more goals so as to kill the game.
The remainder of this article will appear in a later posting.
Adebayor: “We are very proud of our performance”