Previous names: Dial Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal

Sunday, May 20, 2007

FA Cup Final: Lessons for Arsenal

This was a boring game which did not befit the grand occasion of being the first Cup Final to be played at the new Wembley. It was boring due to the tactics and formation adopted by Chelsea but also to an extent by Manchester United.

Chelsea played with three midfielders sitting deep and this list surprisingly included Lampard who was not always very wiling to cross the half way line and give some support to the lone Drogba up front.

On the occasion he did, a goal was conjured in extra time with an exquisite one two with Drogba to send the latter through free in the United area and take advantage of another slow response from Van der Sar ( he was also slow to react for two of the Milan goals in the Champions League semi final).

Drogba’s goal on the 126th minute broke Andy Linighan’s record by four minutes, which stood since Arsenal’s cup triumph against Sheffield Wednesday in 1993, as the latest Cup final goal!

But a similar observation with regard to tactics can be made of Manchester United. Scholes was deployed deep, right next to Carrick even assuming some of his distributional trademark long balls and getting in his way. Tactically not physically.

But Man U lacked balance in their formation more than Chelsea did. And this was due to the absence of Saha or a similar target man which Roonie clearly is not; nor did he receive the support from midfield that he deserved. On the other hand Chelsea had Drogba up front and at the end that’s what made the difference.

Mourino adopted these spoiling tactics because he did not believe that his players could beat Man U in a more open game but we suspect that he also faced a similar decision that Wenger did prior to the 2005 Cup Final against Manchester United.

It was the only honour left for Arsenal to contest in that otherwise barren year. But Wenger was not of course afraid his tenure was under threat! Maybe Mourinho wanted to desperately win something of note this year for non footballing reasons.

So it was not a surprise that stalemate was going to be the order of the day. On the occasion that a goal was scored it was ignored by the refereeing team as not having crossed the line. And of course we all saw that it did; yet we were privileged to a number replays from our living room sofas! Why oh why goal line technology is not yet part and parcel of the game baffles us. The beautiful game and how to make it better.

But it looked obvious that Giggs did foul Ceck by pushing him over the line and Essien’s lunge to stop Giggs was not that obvious. So it was probably the right decision for the wrong reasons!

There are two lessons for Arsenal to learn from this game though.

The first is that possessing the attribute of winning ugly is part and parcel of any winning team. What does Arsenal need to do to challenge for next season? And this is really needed in the marathon that the English teams are asked to endure because the number of games that will have to be played includes, other than the league, the cups and those in Europe. You need to win when the team is not playing well when things are not going according to plan. And to do this you need guts, determination and tenacity. Arsenal haven’t got it at the moment.

The second is that unless there is a solid defence in front of a top quality goalkeeper you might as well forget it. Manchester United played reasonably well but one incidence of inadequate marking from the central midfielders and a slow reaction from the goalkeeper cost them the game.

Chelsea on the other hand know that they can win ugly because they know that their defence will not to make such mistakes nor is Ceck likely to be slow to react.

Arsenal's transfer targets are likely to be focused on the more creative areas of the team but Chelsea’s transfer policy for the summer is bound to include central defenders as back up for Terry and Carvalho so as to avoid a repeat of the period this season when their absence cost them the championship.

If they do then it will be a very exciting championship next year


Anonymous said...

I want us to play ugly sometimes. we need to counter those who play to draw using slow tactics and try to intimidate our young players

Anonymous said...

we have to stick to our known playing style but be tougher