Previous names: Dial Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal

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”


Anonymous said...

Arsenal weren't trying to score the perfect goal last season, that's simply what match of the day would have you believe (If you were silly enough). Our defense wasn't terrible last season and Sagna was bought pure and simply because right backs are cheaper than right mid-fielders and Wenger thought that there wasn't anyone he could get at right midfield at 7 mil who would be better than Eboue.
The only 'real' differences are that we have had a much better start than last season which has given the players belief and confidence in themselves and we haven't got almost our entire strike force injured at the same time being forced to play Baptista and Aliadiere for a large part of the season.
That's it. People need to stop reading to much into things just to have something to say or attempt to come across as insightful or intelligent. Let's leave that to Hansen and Shearer.
Perfect goal??? What utter rubbish.

Anonymous said...

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!
What are you talking about???
Arsenal never relaxed after goin one up, that never happened infact most teams scored first against Arsenal e.g villa, newcastle, everton, westham (twice), so what Arsenal were you watching last sason?

Anonymous said...

I'm 99% sure that we only failed to win 2 games which we led, last season. Both against Chelsea.

So we didn't fail to kill teams off.

I do think our attacking tactics have been tweaked slightly (crosses, long balls etc) but that had already started last season. We do seem to have more confidence to shoot from distance tho'.

As someone said, I think we started really well and the players are full of belief.

Anonymous said...

Exactly! I agree with the first person who commented. There isn't that much of a difference between us now and last season. Just more confidence and a bit more luck. The second person who commented also has a good point. What Arsenal team where you watching???

Anonymous said...

There is only one difference as far I can see...we now have players that expresses themselves freely instead of a unit that was required to run everything in the last third of the pitch through TH14 !!!

Anonymous said...

i dont think arsenal were trying to score the perfect goal last season but were not confident oif scoring (esp for hleb i think. either tt or he was as he claims being trying to be less selfish). yet i agree with the fact that the defence got much tighter. i think eboue was not particularly apt at defense last season, his strength maybe wenger realised was in midfied. so with the impeccable sagna, the defence has indeed ben shored up alot, with the inclusion of him and the returning gallas, who is now less injured and more accostomed to his other back 4 members.

im quite certain the lads were too confident after scoring one goal. its was evident in several games ( i can recall a few game) that they just started to play around dangerously as they tried against this season against sunderland.

all in all a pretty insightful post. and for those who disagree just keep it to yourself. at the very least, have some manners in posting, or you'll look like complete fools. or worse, manc fans.

Anonymous said...

I agree partially with the article and partly with the earlier comments above. I think there have been a few changes to what happened last year, for example we're conceding less goals and generally look less likely to concede and we're also managing to find the net more ourselves (partially thanks to the more daring shots outside the box and the crosses coming in from set-pieces). In general though not a great deal has changed. Arsenal were extremely close to getting it right last season and it was only a few very minor details which made such a big difference on the league table at the end of the season.

Essentially the fundamental difference has just been a general belief that sooner or later we WILL win eventually, rather than thinking ffs we still haven't scored! after only 50 minutes.

Anonymous said...

the real reason!!!!!!

wait for it!!!!!

Henry!! yes!!! i think last season evry midfield player and fello striker would look for henry in every move and relied to much on him to work the magic, dont get me wrong he was one of the greatest players ever to pull on a arsenal shirt but he time had been and gone and wenger knew this!!!

henry playing alongside veira and berkamp was more humble and didnt walk into the dressing room every game thinking that he was the only one with the magic! now they can all show they have some magic.

we still are a little sloppy at the back!

we're are stronger then anyother team in the last 20mins it seems as if we step up a gear!

anyway i look forward to your comments

Anonymous said...

A very good post.
I think the most important changes of all six were the last three. We have learned to win ugky if the occasion demanded it. tha goals are not the monopoly of one TH14player and we hit the ground running. The defence has been a lot better too.

Anonymous said...

i dont think there can be any doubt that arsenal are playing a different style of football this season.

yes we are still mesmerising and can happily play the ball neatly out of tight defensive spots where other teams would lump it forward

that said, the big difference in my mind is that we now have 3 main tactics of scoring goals instead of 1 - passing our way thru, corsses from wide areas and long shots.

we never used to hit crosses in yet now we socre headed goals from bendner and ade and will do from eddy. this will now force teams to defend in wide areas stopping it from being so easy to defend against us as theyre now stretched long range shots also is a great new aspect as it means teams can no longer sit back and defend deep they need to attack the ball and leave spaces in behind...

Anonymous said...

Agree with previous anon 5.36. Very intelligent comment

Anonymous said...

Interesting analysis, but finishing teams off when we're on top? Breaking down defences? These are hardly brainwaves. Everybody would want to do that, but it's easier said than done. I think it would be more useful to focus on what Wenger did to cause these developments. Suggestions:

1) Selling Henry.
2) Moving attacking midfielders up the pitch.
3) Selecting Flamini over Gilberto.
4) Making Gallas captain.
5) Buying Sagna
6) Sticking with Adebayor (when many fans weren't)

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last three comments, but let us not forget this team was always a work in progress which is just about ready to bear fruits!!

Wrighty7 said...

For me there seems to be a greater hunger and resilence from the players this season compared to last season. I think this is because Arsenal were wrote off as soon as Henry was sold and the players want to prove everyone wrong. Wenger has made good decisions such as signing Sagna, who has tightened us up and appointing Gallas as captain who is a proven winner.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Sagna being better at RB and Gallas being fit and learning to play a bit better with Toure has stabilised the back four (although I still think a Vidic/Terry-type ball winning CB would be another big improvement) and the fact that there is an established "best" back four is a benefit in itself, the really obvious, simple thing that I haven't seen mentioned very frequently anywhere is that all these guys are young and improving all the time.
I watch Watford from time to time and Walcott looked a terrific, direct player against us when he came on and set up RvP for the winner (in a game you were dreadful in) and even now he's a bit short most games -
BUT he's much better than he was and you can say the same of almost the whole team. It's obvious with Flamini, Cesc, Clichy, Adebayor but if you take any young player and coach them properly they will improve and the whole team is now amazingly young - I think at this age another 6 months older is 6 months better and the team will improve through the season rather than peaking pre-Christmas or pre-Easter or whenever the experts think the pressure will come on.
Incidentally, Chris Waddle and Malcom MacDonald said something similar last year.
What this means for the future and all those talented guys coming through and the 2-3 top quality guys you might buy each year I don't know - the CC team when everyone was fit at the start of the season was already looking much less a developmental team than a team of backups desperate to show they were worth a first team spot even though they were probably younger on average than last year and I think you'll see a lot of reserves in the FACup without affecting the quality too much - in some ways they are hungrier.
I think Wenger's got a sub-agenda of wanting to say he made a profit while he was there and there was no debt on the stadium (if he can) when he left. I also think while he stays they will make a transfer profit every year for years to come, some years a very large profit.

Anonymous said...

Good article but please do not forget that
(a) This was our second season at the Emirates ( all teams struggle in the first year at a new ground ( it is like playing all your matches away
(b) Arsenal always do well under Wenger when a season ends in an even year ( 1998,2002,2004 )
This is not superstition. But following the World cup , European cup our players are back late. This does affect other teams but not to the same extent. At the last world cup we had 19 players participating . It is not just our first team but most of our reserves who are affected. Also Wenger uses the month before the season starts to hone his side

Anonymous said...

Well I dont agree - my belief is we have stopped being a 'one man team' always looking for TH and not really knowing what to do when he couldnt be seen.
Confidence is higher because a bad pass doesnt get a TH growl!!

Great leadership from the Captain and the defence, and the biggest for me is that the defence dont look so unsettled because they have more faith in Almunia.

Also, the boys have grown and wont be pushed around anymore -

Haoopy Days

Anonymous said...

the single most important change has to be making Gallas captain. without his passion arsenal will not be scoring so many late goals. I love henry but it was rather frustrating watching him walking around the pitch insipidly after 60mins....

Anonymous said...

The extra energy provided by Flamini has been a massive factor for me. Whilst both he and Gilberto can be classed as "defensive midfielders", they are totally different players suited to totally different styles of play. Gilberto is more of a shield who likes to stand off players and intercept play. This style, i feel, is more suited to counter-attacking football where you have quick, direct players around you and are able to quickly get the ball forward to the likes of Pires, Freddie, Henry, Bergkamp etc. By definition, counter-attacking football means that you have less of the ball than this current team likes to have. Flamini, on the other hand, likes to press the ball - winning it early on, and allowing the team to settle into the possession football which they clearly enjoy.

Anonymous said...

"There is only one difference as far I can see...we now have players that expresses themselves freely instead of a unit that was required to run everything in the last third of the pitch through TH14 !!!"

precisely, best business of the summer was the sell of henry, soon players came to see we could score from all around the field (fabs on fire up to 25 yrds this season)as apposed to thinking im 25 yrads from goal do I shoot and score or pass it to henry... in that time the opportunitay has passed. Now he has confidence to shoot, score, arrive in the box at the right time its all starting to "click" and Hleb has been outstanding this year in unlocking the defences too. Confidence is starting to build in this vey multi talented team...