Tuesday, November 9, 2010

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Arsenal 1-0 West Ham: Width and Alex finally get Arsenal on Song

Arsenal left it late, but finally got the 3 points home to West Ham.

Arsenal named almost the same team that beat Manchester City, with Laurent Koscielny replacing Johan Djourou. With Alex Song operating as a box to box player, Arsenal's formation was something between 4-1-2-3 and 4-2-1-3. West Ham started with only Frederic Piquionne up front, as they named a 5 man midfield to try and stifile Arsenal. Luis Boa Morte was used as a central midfielder, and Valeron Behrami was on the right and Victor Obinna on the left.
Early Success
Arsenal had early success down the right hand side with Bacary Sagna providing a threat for West Ham. Obinna wasn't tracking back as much as Behrami, who can also play as a wing back and is much more comfortable tracking back than Obinna. Sagna was able to get behind Obinna and put in some dangerous crosses, from which Arsenal failed to score. That, though was it for Arsenal's wide play, as they kept on trying to cut West Ham open through the middle. Last week at City, Arsenal had played with more width, because City were closing them down in the midfield. West Ham were closing Arsenal down, but they were still content to play through the middle, with Song becoming an extra attacking threat.

Over the last few weeks, Alex Song has been at times the most attacking Arsenal midfielder. Last year he was a much more defensively minded midfielder, but this year he has evolved into a box to box midfielder. On Saturday, and last Sunday, Song was partnered with Denilson who is more aware defensively. Against Shakthar Donestk, Wilshere had the job to hold while Song went forward, though it is interesting that Wilshere is though of as a box to box midfielder. On Saturday, the 3 midfielders rotated between holder, box to box and attacking midfielder.

by Guardian Chalkboards
The chalkboard above shows how much his positioning has changed over the last 12 months.
This though means Fabregas plays deeper, not right behind the front man, as he did last year. This maybe because Fabregas has been marked tightly, leading to more space for Song to get forward.

Some of Arsenal's best chances were coming in from wide, with Sagna cutting back for Fabregas and Walcott hitting the post after he came on for Denilson. His pace also forced West Ham to sit deeper, leaving more time for Arsenal to pass the ball around, and letting them get the ball out wide. Eventually, one of Arsenal's crosses found an Arsenal player, with Song scoring after Clichy's excellent cross.
Right before, Arshavin had been brought off for Bendtner, getting more bodies in the box, and with the Russian ineffective on this day, Clichy getting forward was important.

A good result for Arsenal; another day and West Ham may have held out for a draw, or even snatched a goal on a set piece or counter. Song was magnificent, going forward and winning the ball back, and again Arsenal scored from wide.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Arsenal 3-0 Manchester City: Width Key and Newcastle 0-4 Arsenal: Counter Attack

Arsenal beat City 3-0 on Sunday, a scoreline that hides the fact that City were in large parts of the game.

After the sending off of Dedryck Boyata, City played a 4-3-1-1 formation, with the 3 sitting very narrow. Arsenal played less through the middle than they did against Birmingham, but on Sunday, Arsenal's wide players, Samir Nasri and Andrey Arshavin kept the width, exposing City, and forcing them to run more. Nasri and Arshavin would combine for the first goal, Nasri cutting in as Bacary Sagna crossed, and Nasri cutting in from the wing provided the ball for Bendtner for the third goal.
A chalkboard explains better than I do:

by Guardian Chalkboards
Against City, Arsenal's passing involved more width than a similar game, away to 10 man Liverpool, did. That may have to do with the different styles of Liverpool and City, but Arsenal's width was a key factor in their victory.

Newcastle 0-4 Arsenal

Arsenal's 4th round Carling Cup victory against Newcastle was a very scrappy and un-Arsenal like performance. Arsenal were sloppy in possession, pehaps down to the pitch, and players like Craig Eastmond in the team, but they seemed to play the long ball more than usual, and Walcott's two goals came from long passes out of defence, though one, by Koscielny, was very composed.
After going 2-0 up, Arsenal sat back a bit, and most of their attacking play in the second half was through the pace of Walcott, as he stretched Newcastle, who were pushing forward to get back into the match. Of the 3 goals in the second half, two were counter attacks, and winning the ball in the middle of the pitch.
Walcott's pace has been missed by Arsenal, as he gives them the pace to lead a quick counter attack, and time and time again a simple long ball from the back found him in a lot of space.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Arsenal 5-1 Shakhtar: Arsenal Rout Pitmen

Arsenal are all but through to the knockout stage after thumping Shakhtar Donetsk 5-1.

Arsenal welcomed Cesc Fabregas back and Tomas Rosicky replaced Andrey Arshavin as Arsenal played their usual 4-2-3-1, but with Nasri and Rosicky providing more width than normal. Shakhtar left Douglas Costa and Eduaro on the bench as they went for a more defensive 4-2-3-1.

The match started out slowly, with Arsenal content to sit back and let Shakhtar move the ball around in their own half. Even after going fortuitously up 1-0, they were still content to let Shakhtar move the ball around in defence. Shakhtar, however, were unable to string any coherent play together, and when they did, Arsenal's midfield was quick to press the man in possession.

Midfield Fluidity
The most interesting aspect of Arsenal's play on Tuesday was the fluid midfield of Jack Wilshere, Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song. Last year Song was ofter the most defensive midfielder, and was quite successful; this year he has become more attack minded player, and at times on Tuesday he was the furthest forward midfielder, and at times the deepest. Wilshere and Fabregas would sit back for Song, and it was remarkable how deep Fabregas and Wilshere were at times. After Denilson came on, Wilshere was liberated to move forward, as Denilson was more content to sit back and hold, and Wilshere promptly scored.

It was amazing how deep Arsenal sat back on Tuesday, and somewhat uncharacteristic. Perhaps they were worried about being caught out like they were by Birmingham and West Brom, or maybe they were conserving energy, being confident of there ability to break up play.

Chamakh soon added a 5th, and then Eduardo got a well received consolation to close out an easy game for Arsenal who never looked in danger of losing.

credit to Total Football iPhone App

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal: Cole and Drogba do it again

Arsenal lost to Chelsea again last Sunday. Despite playing a lot better than they have in the last 4 times, Arsenal still lost, succumbing to the Cole to Drogba yet again.

Arsenal played 4-2-3-1, with Jack Wilshere and Alex Song playing in the deeper midfield role, and Abou Diaby behind Chamakh. Diaby was often ahead of Chamakh early in the match as Arsenal pressed very well in the first 20 minutes, and could've been ahead, with Laurent Koscielny missing over the bar.

Chelsea got back in the match, and took the lead when Cole crossed for Drogba, with Drogba finishing superbly. It was very similar to the goal Drogba scored at the Emirates last year, with Cole getting ahead of Nasri again, and crossing for Drogba again. Emmanuel Eboue may be a solution to stopping Cole, and tracking him. In the end, Arsenal need a player like Ji-Sung Park, who is in the side to specifically track Cole.

by Guardian Chalkboards

Arsenal played well in the second half, dominating possession but never creating enough chances, and when they did, they weren't as clinical as Chelsea. Obviously missing Van Persie and Fabregas hurt Arsenal, but they must be more clinical to win the big matches. Also, there is a defensive wobbly ness about Arsenal; both goals came from fouls that were stupidly conceded.

There isn't a lot more to say. Chelsea were excellent defensively and took their chances very well. There is a machine like efficiency about Chelsea, and they are favourites for the title. However, Arsenal were a lot better than they have been and the game was a lot closer than some pundits have said. There is still a big gap between the two, and tactically, if Arsenal are to beat Chelsea, they will need to have a player who tracks Ashley Cole and prevents him crossing in for Drogba, like he has in 2 of the last 3 meetings.