Previous names: Dial Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What does Arsenal need to do to challenge for next season? Part II

There are quite a lot of weaknesses that Arsene Wenger needs to address and rectify if Arsenal are to challenge seriously for honours next season.

Fortunately they are all correctible as a lot of the changes needed involve a change of attitude or better coaching and organisation on the pitch rather than radical surgery in the personnel.

We started to put our views on the above subject in an earlier posting. The first part covered the issues of getting the defence right, buying two experienced players and adopting the 4 5 1 formation. What does Arsenal need to do to challenge for next season? Part I

With regard to the defence we maintained that what is needed is more organisation than new players and the two signings will need to be for a wide midfielder and another forward. The 4 5 1 formation is a flexible system that additionally helps provide extra protection for a young defence and allows for the utilization three central midfielders inclusive of Diaby.

This posting deals with the rest of our suggestions:

- Learn how to break up packed defences
- kill teams off when on top
- Learn how to win ugly
- Hit the ground running
- Manage the impending takeover bid correctly.

Let’s take each in turn.

Learn how to break up packed defences

Arsenal are top of the mini league consisting of the top 4 sides! It’s those points dropped against the smaller teams that were crucial. The reason being that they usually play with ten men behind the ball.

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!

The big teams on the other hand play to win, are not as defencively minded and are therefore more open to Arsenal’s playing style.

As we have indicated in previous postings,Wenger is in denial… again Wenger needs to stop whingeing about defencive tactics. What does he expect them to do? Roll over and ask for mercy? It is not only Arsenal that face packed defences every week. If Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool have found ways round it why can’t Arsenal?

The onus is surely on the coaching staff to work out ways and playing systems to break them down. We would only suggest four ways round it that were very evidently lacking this season.

One is the speed with which Arsenal were 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 allows the opponents time to get more men behind the ball and also to reorganize their defence.

Secondly an alternative approach needs to be developed where variation in the style of play during the course of a game will help confuse opponents. Like crossing the ball for a headed attempt at goal or even, as has been attempted sometimes this season, using the long ball now and then.

Thirdly, taking advantage of set plays has been distinctly lacking. The number of goals scored from this source can be counted using the fingers of one hand.

Winning corners or fouls outside the area is no problem of course but the art of taking them leaves a lot to be desired. The absence of Henry and Van Persie accounts for the lack of goals from free kicks but corners?

Lastly remember it’s not a five a side game or even basketball where the main aim is to pass the ball around so as to create the opportunity to have a free shot.

In football you will always have opponents blocking your way to goal. You need to go for the jugular sometimes! Shoot on site man! A deflected goal is as good as any other goal. Abandon the obsessive infatuation with passing the ball into the net or scoring the goal of the year! For Pete’s or indeed our sake.

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 they relax too much and too early when they are only one nil up. But the opponents know that they will get their chance and like small armies, who out of necessity adopt guerrilla tactics, they only need one strike. And then it’s 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”

So when one nil up go hell for leather for a two nil up as though your lives depended on it. Kill them off when they are down. That’s what Man Utd and Chelsea do.

Learn how to win ugly

Arsenal will also have to learn to win ugly. When the team is not playing well when things are not going according to plan. You need guts, determination and tenacity to win games and with it championships.

We are not that worried about this because we believe that this is something that comes with desire, determination and also with players that can get you goals from nowhere; and all three can potentially be there next season.

Hit the ground running

Both Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have made the point that starting the season on the right foot sets the tone for the remainder. It allows the team to get more confidence to see themselves up there at the top with the other protagonists and to be talked about as possible contenders for the Championship.

It’s almost a confidence trick but nevertheless significant when the team consists mainly of young and inexperienced kids.

Manage the impending takeover bid correctly

What has been underpinning Arsenal’s successes over the years has been the stability and consistency throughout the club. This has now been cracked and it looks as it is about to be shattered with possible consequences for the team’s fortunes on the football field.

What has happened so far is only the beginning. As we have indicated in our previous postings eg Arsenal sale will be sooner rather than later! Kroenke, having made a very courageous investment of 43m PLUS an additional undertaking of 23m to buy half of Arsenal Broadband from ITV, will not hold back.

That’s a lot of money (66m) to pay if you are not expecting to lodge a successful bid and take control of a company. Certainly keeping it there as an investment (as has been suggested) does not fit in with Kroenke’s investment profile and business behaviour.

What is likely to happen is that the club will face a year of uncertainty and instability which may find its way on the playing field. This is to be avoided like the plague!

And it has to be managed correctly so that the whole business can be smoothed over with the minimum disruption on the footballing side of things.


Inexperience is something which characterises Wenger’s teams throughout his tenure at Arsenal. That is why we witness the fluctuations in the quality of the performance levels between games and also during games themselves.

But when they achieve more consistency which will come with maturity, they will produce scintillating, dare we say it, Brazilian type football. Football that will be “untouchable”. Again.

Do all the above and it could be another double or more!


Anonymous said...

Wenger's teams have always been inexperienced. I don't see how this lot will suddenly mature.

Anonymous said...

WE need more than two players if we are to win anything. Certainly need another central defender and a midfielder as well as a winger.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the 451 system is more suited to Arsenal but Wenger needs to get the right players to man it. He needs to splash the dough out and sign wide midfielders who are experienced and fast.

Stop signing kids.

Anonymous said...

A very good article. My only concern is that I would have thought that Arsenal needs to put more, not fewer men, in the opposing penalty area in order to convert/take some of the many opportunities that its creative midfield makes during the 90 minutes. So, I am not so sure whether the 4-5-1 system is the solution for Arsenal. Perhaps a 4-4-2 would be better.

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