By 1970’s Gooner
“I can't remember too many games where we have won playing like that. It increases the belief because we were not at our best and still won, but you can't play like that every week and get three points."
This was Arsene Wenger just after the Tottenham game.
Well he was very right of course. A somewhat similar performance was displayed against Portsmouth and it was only due to the home team’s desire being limited to getting a point that spared us our blushes.
Everton will not restrict their aspirations to just getting a point. I was very impressed with their away display at Old Trafford which was characterised with tenacious marking coupled with positive forward play.
There are three main reasons why Arsenal have been below par recently.
1. The conflicting role of Fabregas vs Hleb
The first concerns the role of Fabregas in connection with Hleb’s license to roam free. What is actually happening is that Hleb is dropping deep in the middle of the park picking the ball up and trying to dictate play from there.
This actually inhibits Fabregas who is taking a step back to allow Hleb to make the play. This means that his creative brain and penetrative passing are really being missed. And when Fabregas is under performing Arsenal under performs.
2. The 4 4 1 1 (or 4 5 1) system does not suit Adebayor who needs support
Hleb’s desire to dictate play has a double negative effect. As Fabregas and Co are getting too much support in midfield Adebayor is being deprived of the extra forward that will give him the support his is craving for.
When a 4 5 1 or a 4 4 1 1 system is deployed it is vital that the midfielders push forward when the front man has the ball. This has not been happening with Hleb being too deep concerned with making play.
Flamini is concerned with his defencive duties and Fabregas…well he is looking for a role at the moment. Rosicky and Eboue are by the nature of their positions too wide to offer support to Adebayor anyway.
So Adebayor is left carrying the baby most of the time. Arsene has to seriously consider bringing the 4 4 2 system back even if Van Persie is not fit to return. Maybe he was reluctant to do so having tried Eduardo there for a few games which didn’t work mostly due to Eduardo’s need to get acclimatized to English football.
But now Bendtner has shown that he is more than ready. When he came on at Portsmouth he helped create two goalscoring chances during a relatively short period of time.
Hleb should be told to keep to the left of midfield and Rosicky on the right. Let Fabregas run the show again, give some support to Adebayor and then we will see more chances created and hopefully goals again.
3. Not enough movement off the ball
Performances have lately been rather flat characterised by less energy, poor passing and more importantly not enough movement off the ball.
If the other team press on you in all areas of the pitch then you need creativity, movement off the ball and precise passing to get round the markers. If you fail to do that then your penetration into the opponent’s areas will suffer.
And you end up more often than not pumping long balls to the forward(s) who have to however be supported by midfielders or the other forward if this tactic is to work.
Movement off the ball is something which characterises all Wenger’s teams. It is the basic philosophy underpinning the “ball on the floor” approach with precise and penetrative passing.
Now why there’s not enough movement is difficult to discern but tiredness could be a factor. The only way to remedy it of course is to bring in a few fresh faces. There is strength in depth in the squad after all.
Football is a zero sum game and if all the pieces of the puzzle are not in place then the whole suffers disproportionately. However the converse is that when those weaknesses are corrected then the puzzle begins to look beautiful again.
There’s no in-between!