Previous names: Dial Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal

Monday, March 17, 2008

Three reasons for four below par performances

By 1970’s Gooner

There is no doubt about it. What looked like a blip at Birmingham, which came after all due to special circumstances, carried itself forward against Aston Villa where we could only manage a draw; and then we began to get worried.

But that performance at the San Siro had every one drooling about the style of the beautiful football that these young guns can master and we again began to believe that those lackluster performances were only blips that every team goes through on their way to glory.

And then came the impotent draw at the Wigan quagmire which, as I wrote then, you couldn’t put it all down to the awful state of the pitch.

The latest points dropped, at home this time, to a resolute and clever Middlesbrough side have brought home to me what a lot of Gooners have probably been fearing.

That there are some common themes underlying these insipid performances and I will start with the most important one:

1. Key players are tired and rotation has not been an option

The long and exhaustive season coupled with not enough rotation means that players are tired and lack energy and movement on which Arsenal’s style of play depends so much.

It is a style that requires all eleven players to perform not only at their best but at a highly synchronized and sophisticated level. Like a jig saw puzzle which requires all parts to be in place before it reveals its beautiful picture.

Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, have been rotating players both in midfield and in attack.

Players like Lampard, Makalele, both Coles, Drogba and Anelka for Chelsea.

Scholes, Saha, Hargreaves, Carrick, Park and Tevez….for Manchester United.

Torres, Alonso, Pennant, Benayoun, Crouch and even Gerrard for Liverpool.

It is not a coincidence that the team with the most rotation (Liverpool) are now looking the most fresh of the lot scoring goals for fun and coming good in this latter part of the season where trophies are won.

On the other hand Arsenal have been resting players only when they had to i.e to replace injured and suspended players like Van Persie, Rosicky, Eboue, Toure and Eduardo.

Fabregas has looked as though he needed a rest some time ago but wasn’t rested enough. The same can be said of Adebayor who has looked tired running the front line sometimes on his own. Clichy and Sagna have been ever present without really taking a breather. The same can be said of Flamini and Hleb.

This did not affect the performance at the San Siro as the special occasion must have given the players a lift but also AC Milan did not really press tight to deny space nor played it rough on the Arsenal’s midfield. And they did not defend with ten men behind the ball.

But on the domestic scene teams approach the games differently and it is quickness of feet and continuous movement that draggs opponents out of position and creates the necessary space and time to unfold the skills that are obviously in abundance.

The major reason for the relative lack of rotation compared to Arsenal’s opponents is a combination of lack of squad depth and injury.

For example if Wenger wanted to rest either Fabregas or Flamini his options were mostly untried players like, Diaby, Diarra (who needed games) Denilson and Song or the ageing Gilberto.

When actually both Fab and Flamini needed replacing, Gilberto, Denilson and to a lesser extent Diarra were not up to it and points were dropped. This was for the games against Wigan at home and Aston Villa, Newcastle and Middlesbrough away.

2. Not enough goal scorers

An area where the squad was beginning to show its depth was in the forward positions. Van Persie’s injury was going unnoticed mainly due to Eduardo coming to terms with the Premiership and scoring goals for fun.

At the same time Adebayor and Fabregas were also hitting the back of the net and Bendtner was being used to good effect, mainly as a substitute.

A good example of Eduardo’s contribution was the 4-1 defeat of Everton at Goodison Park where the performance of the team was very average but even with having gone a goal behind Eduardo’s goal scoring ability meant that we run out emphatic winners.

But Eduardo’s subsequent unfortunate injury and Fabregas’s lack of goals placed too much of a burden on Adebayor. Rosicky’s absence has not helped either as he is the only other midfielder that is more of a goal scorer.

And until Van Pesie could return to the side Arsenal lacked that cutting edge. The edge that Ronaldo and Roonie are now giving to Manchester United by scoring the goals that are turning draws into victories.

Now that Van Persie is back this may be rectified but unfortunately a lot of points have in the meantime been dropped and RVP will need a couple more games to get match fitness and into his stride…

3. Players playing out of position

Not withstanding the above Arsene Wenger made some choices which affected the team’s performance in two of the four drawn games.

He opted to play Walcott as a second forward alongside Adebayor against Villa at home. He started brightly but it only worked for a while with Walcott benefiting from Adebayor’s lay offs but then running out of steam.

At half time Wenger changed to what he should have started with by instructing Hleb to switch places with Walcott and things improved.

Another example is the Wigan away game. I feel that it was not appropriate that Fabregas was displaced to the right of midfield. This had the double negative effect as such decisions often have in football.

Arsenal’s midfield effectiveness was almost rendered non existent as Flamini couldn’t get the rhythm and passing that by now can produce with his eyes shut when Fabregas is there next to him to receive the ball.

It was not a surprise that Arsenal’s most effective and dangerous moments originated when the little maestro ventured in field to receive the ball and dictate play as only he knows how.

But in addition to missing Fabregas in the central areas of the pitch Gilberto’s impact was not up to standard. He is now a shadow of the player he used to be and more often than not chose to pass the ball backwards or sideways thus slowing the game up even more than the pitch was.

What of the future?

Pessimistic outlook:

Robin Van Persie needs a few more games to find his feet but in the meantime Fabregas and Co find it difficult to return to their early season form. This is exaggerated by the number of crunch games coming up thick and fast beginning with Chelsea away, the Liverpool trilogy and the (hopefully) crunch game at Old Trafford.

Optimistic outlook:

Robin Van Persie comes back with a vengeance and starts scoring goals form the off beginning with Chelsea. Fabregas and Co are rejuvenated, put their tiredness and aching limbs behind them and start putting in the performances that they are capable of.

Take your pick…….


Anonymous said...

..and we have some key players competing in the Euros this summer too, which will affect next season if our squad isn't up to the job by then.

Anonymous said...

Lack of depth is important but if you do a careful analysis of Adebayor's season you will find his goal count insignificant compared to his offsides, broken plays and poor passing and he plays every game for the total time. We are in fact playing with only ten men. Until Wenger sits him on the bench and tries other combinations will we start clicking again.

Anonymous said...

I think the biggest reason we are struggling at the moment is the first reason you listed.

Many of our first choice starting 11 are mentally, and to a lesser extent, physically exhausted. Look at the last game against Middlesborough. Who played th worst during the game? Adebayor, Hleb. Who were relatively ineffective? Cesc, Clichy, Gallas, Sagna, Flamini. Who looked the most lively? Toure, Eboue, Van Persie, Bendtner, and Walcott. If you notice who played well and who played poorly, the difference is those who have played a lot recently and those who have not.

Surely Wenger must recognize this. I would do three things if I were Wenger before the Chelsea game:
(1) Have a light week of training allowing for players to recover physically.
(2) Figure out some activity for the players to take part in together to allow them to recover mentally...something fun.
(3) ...and I know I am going to get slated for this, start the Chelsea game with the following team:



--------_Bendtner-------Van Persie

Sub on at some point: Hleb for Eboue; Adebayor for Bendtner, Diaby for Van Persie

Anonymous said...

you forgot to mention how appalling ADEBAYOR has been recently.

its important to remember that for the number of chances we make, any leading CF playing for us will get close to 20 goals in a season which is what Adebayor has.

So for him to think he is really that good and could move to real madrid soon then the guy needs more than a slap!

he has no brains when it comes to offside either, why are you off side when you look down the line and when the line is 8 yads from goal?

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous about the starting 11 and bringing on ade later.

Anonymous said...

In Ade's defence ha has had 5 goals WRONGLY dissallowed for offside

Anonymous said...

dont forget that rosicky has been out for a very long time during the season as well

Anonymous said...

I know it's frustrating but look at the official!
Birmingham we should have won 2-1 and would have had not not been for the penalty that shouldn't have been. Also, at Wigan, Ade was through on goal but wrongly flagged offside. And who could forget Boro, a horrendous performance by Halsey, as Ade was again appallingly given offside and Eboue should have had a clear penalty. We also, unrelatedly, hit the post 3 times.

So I think a lot of the blame is not on us, but the naivety of others (and the thickness of the posts!)

Anonymous said...

As much as we can all sit here and knock our side, and we will because we are all big fans, upset by the last few league results.

But I truely believe that the injury to Dudu has effected our players - Alex, Cesc, Ade and Bac looked green - and I thought any one of them was going to be ill on the pitch.

I hear you ask - why were we then able to play so well in Italy ??

Simple - that kind of tackle that Taylor committed has in general been knocked out of the other leagues and maybe the fear factor in Italy was not the same as when we play Wigan, Boro etc -

On top of that - and even on bias Andy Gray said similar, and that is, had the goal of Ade's been allowed, as it rightly should have been, who knows what would have happened. And then, the goal Boro scored should not have been allowed, also, the penalty that never was at B'ham the two that Eboue should have had.... It goes on and on - the decisions are going against us and we can not change that.

Our tide will turn and I truely believe against Chelsea we will be back to our best, and we will win. I am not where Man U will drop points, but we have, and so may they. Liverpool dont forget are fighting to get the 4th spot, so who knows it could be this weekend.

What I do know is Ade and Nik can not play together, and that is where Dudu changed things up front for us - boy, we miss him...

I know we all want money spent on big names in the summer, but it wont happen, but I read Young Guns and here how some of the 17 - 18 year old players are performing and maybe we will see more of them in the first team - Sunu sounds like a real possibilty - fingers crossed...

Dont forget, it is not over until that lady starts singing, it is a tough run in, but if Lady Luck changes and the Refs/Linesman have all been to SpecSavers this weekend, we CAN still win the league......

Anonymous said...

Older readers might remember a player called George Graham )I think he was a manager as well!)who was a very lazy player but when dropped from the first team would always come back full of running. When Adebayor was dropped at Everton he came back like a man possessed. He has been loafing for weeks and Wenger should have dropped him.

Tom said...

Tiredness, sure, squad too thin? Yep but look at the number of goals our midfield have scored this season:

Fabregas - 12 Rosicky - 7 Walcott - 5
Hleb - 4
Eboue - 0
Diaby - 3
Flamini - 3
Denilson - 2

Not good enough by a long long way. only Cesc has any credible results out of the lot of them. The one player who stands out is of course the enigma that is Alexander Hleb. Now I'm not blaming everything on him BUT he is a player that should score more goals. His skill on the ball is in perverse contrast to his fear of shooting. I just don't get it with him ... he is the most frustrating player in the team. He is perfect for our game but if we are going to include him then the rest of the midfield must score more therefore players like Rosicky and Eboue are certainly looking as though they do not earn their place for me. Eboue's general playing ability is nowhere near good enough, he can't shoot or cross the ball consistently and his behaviour is a joke. He is a weak link in the team. Rosicky could improve and I think we should give him another season when hopefully he can avoid injuries and build a better goalscoring record.

All in all I think we lack 'finishers' - a few months back it looked like we had too many but without RVP and Eduardo everything depends on Adebayor and he's not consistent enough either. Next season we MUST bring in an attacking wide midfielder that knows where the goal is.

I think - although I haven't checked - the midfield of ManU will have a much better record than ours.

Anonymous said...

cant believe all the negative adabeyor rants , this guy is our most improved player and all he needs is a fit again van persie who before his injury had scored 5 goals in 7 games and was largly billed as our great player after th14 for this season . also we tend to play better against the bigger teams and when are backs are against the wall. all i want for this weekend is a liverpool win and then us do do the biz against chelsea and the title is back on .

Anonymous said...

Good analysis, I agree with most of it. Makes a change from some of the knee jerk stuff out there.
I would add one more point - the affect the CL is having on players heads.

Anonymous said...

Our Glorious Midfield

Fantastic, young and BIG on players who are mobile, can pass quickly and see passes in tight spaces - Oh Yes!!

However our midfielders are SHORT on:-


BIG tacklers

Players good in the air

Using the open spaces of a pitch

Taking players on single handedly

Quality Free Kick takers

Players capable of clearing the first defender from a corner

Posing any kind of threat from a corner or dead ball situation in the last 5 minutes when a ManU team would be slowly turning the screw and forcing defenders into mistakes... (Please note Gallas, Senderos and Toure are not midfielders)


Are these not things that every squad in the country should have an abundance...?

And that the manager's sole problem is deciding how best to blend all these strengths together and make the perfectly balanced team designed to beat your opponents??

Call me naive but other than (10 games a season) RVP - not 1 of our players can 'whip' in a good corner or free kick...

Who of our midfield is capable of arriving on the back post and leaping above the full back to nod 1 in...

If you all thought Plan B was Ade scoring the odd header or 2 then you must surely be aware that when his tap turned off we were back to Plan A only again...

I love Wenger - his teams play amazing footy - but his ignorance to the art of scoring any type of goal - is once again biting him on the proverbial...


Anonymous said...

Which one of the following accounts more for the decline in recent performances

the 5th option should have been

-Because we played absolutely crap in all games and had no help from the referees either

Anonymous said...

I will vent mu fury if ever i hear this nonsense of tiredness it is simply the worst kind of excuse.If they are tired just imagine how tired they will be after euro 08.So on that account we should just chuck in another season under tiredness.....BULLSHIT !

Anonymous said...

They should practice putting real pressure on teams at corners and free kicks.Arsenal are the worst top team at creating anything from corners or free kicks or set pieces.

Anonymous said...

What is bothering me the most is that I see no one calling for Fab to bench ed when he has been Arsenal's worst performer in the last four matches. You all need to get off the Ade bashing.

Anonymous said...

TOM: In fact Man U's midfield have scored 8 goals in the league this season. About as much as Rosicky alone.

Wrighty7 said...

Great post 1970's. The players seem tired and that seems to be affecting the performances. I believe that we've had a run of bad luck also from decisions from refs in recent games eg-Birmingham-Two goals conceded from very debatable dicision, 'Boro-Ade "disallowed goal" and the free kick that led to the 'Boro goal. We have performed in recent games but I reckon that we will against Chelsea. We seem to perk up against the big teams.

Wrighty7 said...

Sorry that should say haven't performed in recent games!

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis. I think it is fair to say that we have been playing with a couple of sub-standard players in most games recently, and that is a luxury we can not afford. Adebayor is OK, but only that, but Bendtner and Eboue are way below standard. I also think we have lost our width in recent games. While the full backs have both been excellent coming down the wings, Eboue and Hleb have offered little real end product down the wings, leaving a rather predictable scramble between Hleb, Adebayor and Fabregas down the centre, usually into a wall of 5 or 6 defenders.

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis. I think it is fair to say that we have been playing with a couple of sub-standard players in most games recently, and that is a luxury we can not afford. Adebayor is OK, but only that, but Bendtner and Eboue are way below standard. I also think we have lost our width in recent games. While the full backs have both been excellent coming down the wings, Eboue and Hleb have offered little real end product down the wings, leaving a rather predictable scramble between Hleb, Adebayor and Fabregas down the centre, usually into a wall of 5 or 6 defenders.

sikatinavra said...





Anonymous said...

Wow, what a load of over analysis. Tired? Give me a break. We're young and fit as fiddles, no one else looks tired, why should we? We retain all the possession. How could we possibly be tired.

Plain and simple reason - arrogance. We only start playing in the last 10 minutes. We think we're going to walk it. These kids are very mothered by Arsenal - they just need to dig deep and ask themselves if they really want it and try harder.


Anonymous said...

Anon @ 11:01 - bang on RE: no width. We never use wings - it's like last season and the one before that. Hleb and Eboue coming inside and no one overlapping. I've been saying that for the last four games. As soon as Walcott comes on and overlaps we score. We gotta use the width more - but the confidence has gone and we ain't doing that. Shame.

Anonymous said...

I blame tiredness. I feel wenger should have bought 1 winger and 1 defender to give our starters some rest and avoid injuries. The way I see it, we have given away the title to the mancs, we have only the CL to compete.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this post, but believe another factor is at play here. Against the big teams we seem to play well, thats because they come out to play, leaving gaps in their defence.. We like to play through the middle and against there smaller teams, its too congested.. Perhaps we need to add more width to our play, taking defenders on the outside instead of cutting inside the whole time and trying to force passes that just are not there to be played..

Anonymous said...

I really don't agree with the rotation point. Liverpool are NOT scoring goals for fun. Just look at the Reading game. Those goals should not have been. First bad defending and the second offside on Alonso effecting play. Also Reading should have had a penalty for a Gerrard handball.

Anonymous said...

very good post this. I would add that although the results have not gone our way I dont actually think we played badly in any of the 4 draws, though we were not at our best. thing is, Arsenal seem to have to be near their best to pick up 3 points whereas Man U and Chelsea can seem to play very averagely and still win games. this is where Arsenal need to improve. if we could dig out wins as well as them we would win the league at a canter.
there do seem to be several reasons why we are not playing brilliantly right now and thats why we are finding it hard. even when we do get a goal or a deserved penalty, the refereeing is not going our way.

Anonymous said...

"For example if Wenger wanted to rest either Fabregas or Flamini his options were mostly untried players like, Diaby, Diarra (who needed games) Denilson and Song or the ageing Gilberto."

Is Diarra still with Arsenal?

Anonymous said...

he was until not so long ago mate and he could have been an option for resting players