Saturday, February 27, 2010

Shift in the Formation

After the Man United and Chelsea games, where Arsenal conceded 3 of the 5 goals on counter attacks, Arsene Wenger made a slight tactical shift in the 4-3-3 formation. 2 of the midfielders, Diaby and Song against Liverpool, and Ramsey and Song against Sunderland now playing a deeper role, with Fabregas playing further forward.

by Guardian Chalkboards
Diaby dropped back against Liverpool

The formation is now basically a 4-2-3-1, or a 4-2-1-3, with Fabregas in the hole. That is a role that he didn't play well in towards the end of last year, but this year he has developed into a more rounded player, as Arsene Wenger remarked:
He is a complete midfielder.

"He has become a complete midfielder because he can defend now, he has kept his vision and I believe he has added some physical power to his game.

"If you compare Fabregas two years ago and today, physically they are completely different.

Song still remains the slightly deeper player, but has shifted to the right of the midfield, which gives the full back leeway to get forward, as Eboue did last Saturday. At times it has appeared that Fabregas is playing as a striker, or at least a ponta da lança, and as the front line is missing creativity with no Van Persie or Arshavin, Fabrgas playing that high can effective.

by Guardian Chalkboards

Seen here, Fabregas is playing much higher than Song against Sunderland, almost as a striker.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Eboue is a?

Emmanuel Eboue was arguably the most influential player last Saturday against Sunderland. He set up Bendtner’s first goal and was a thorn on Sunderland’s left side throughout the entire game.
In Inverting the Pyramid, Jonathan Wilson makes the point that space is the most important part of football tactics, and tactics evolve to find space. This can be found in the Total Football tactics of the 1970s, where Ajax made the pitch big when they had the ball and made the space smaller when they didn’t by pressing the opposition. Arsene Wenger has admitted to being an admirer of the Ajax sides of the period, and Arsenal are often thought of as a total football side. In The Guardian series The Question, Wilson argues that the full back has become the player with the most space available. If Sunderland had actually played a 4-3-3, they may have been able to counter Eboue’s runs, but when they played 4-5-1, they allowed Eboue to run, and easily beat Darren Bent, which he did for the first goal. Eboue kept making these runs, and was the most dangerous player, and should have been named man of the match. It’s a far cry from last year where some cringed when he played. And it provokes a question about him: If he’s so effective going forward, should he start ahead of Bacary Sagna?

The answer is that he shouldn’t. While Eboue is good going forward, Sagna is much better defensively. Eboue is suspect defensively (see the game against Wigan last year when he was booed off). Not that Eboue shouldn’t play; he is an excellent squad player, and is good off the bench on the right of the front three. Though not as good starting in the front three, he has been effective off the bench at that position when the opposition have tired. So, if Eboue shouldn’t start ahead of Sagna, and shouldn’t start up front, when should he start? The start against Sunderland showed that he should start against weaker teams who come to the Emirates with a defensive formation and will allow Eboue the space from right back. Also, if Song and Diaby/Ramsey continue to play a slightly deeper role then they have, he can be assured that he’ll be covered if he goes forward.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tale of 2 Half's against Liverpool

Funny old game football is. We play awful against Liverpool, but get a goal and a victory and we play well against Chelsea and don't score. Arsenal had about 200 less passes against Liverpool than Chelsea (382 attempted passes, 79% successful, and 503 attempted passes against Chelsea, at 80.5% successful). Liverpool came to Arsenal choosing to play like Chelsea and hit Arsenal on the break. The only problem is that Liverpool do not break quickly, and do not have the likes of Didier Drogba (or Fernando Torres). Liverpool actually out possessed Arsenal, but it was Arsenal who came away with the victory thanks to a header by Abou Diaby after good work from Nicklas Bendtner and Tomas Rosicky. Arsenal had a much better second half after a tentative and boring first half, which was so boring that Bendtner's shot over the bar and Fabregas' long range effort were the highlights of the first half on Match of the Day. One reason Arsenal had a better second half was due to the increase of passing in the final third, in the middle. Arsenal didn't do that in the first half, but created more chances in the second half.
Fabregas was able to play more in the middle and higher up the pitch in the second half, and it's his run and pass to Bendtner that sets up the Arsenal goal. During that passage of play, he made a run that drew attention from the Liverpool defenders, leaving Diaby to be unmarked.

by Guardian Chalkboards
Arsenal now have a week until their next game, Porto away in the Champions League. Eduardo should be back, but Arshavin might miss out with a hamstring and Song had some medial knee ligament issues, but Arsene hopes he's back in a week.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Depressingly Inevitable. Drogba FC 2-0 Arsenal

Well that wasn't unexpected. Arsenal didn't play badly, but Didier Drogba beat us again. When he retires or leaves, Arsenal fans will be having a parade. Conceding a goal early meant we'd always be up against it, but the goal we conceded was stupid. Alex Song didn't play badly, but he was at fault here, leaving Drogba unmarked after the corner had come in. It was criminal defending, made even worse when Clichy went walk about from the post. He might've been able to stop the ball going in. Almunia could do nothing on this goal. Arsenal then played fairly well for the next 20 minutes, and Cech made a good save on Cesc's ball in to Arshavin. Chelsea then scored on a counter attack, with Lampard playing Drgoba into space where Clichy was missing. Having got back, Drogba then turned Clichy and fired, and though hit hard, it was straight at Almunia. However he flapped at it and it was 2-0. Song and Vermaelen were also missing on the counter attack, and I've got to fault them there. Song is supposed to be our defensive midfielder, he can't go forward all the time.
Cech saved a great free kick from Fabregas in the second half, and Arsenal had a good penalty shout turned down when Cashley hacked down Bendtner.
Theo Walcott's performance was pretty disappointing. He gave the ball away easily, and didn't use his pace at all.

Arsenal's Defensive Problems
First Goal
Clichy was on the post, but then moved away. Song, who was marking Drogba was on him until the header in from Terry.
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Second Goal
All sorts of problems here. Arshavin lost the ball.
There are 6 players in the attacking half of the pitch (Click to make bigger) while Chelsea also have 6. But 4 of those Arsenal players are in the attacking third, meaning a counter attack goal was very likely. Lampard then plays the ball into Drogba in space.
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Here, I think Arsenal's back 4 are too narrow, meaning Drogba can have loads of space, and then drive in from the wing, while Clichy tries to cut him off. He did this, turning Clichy easily, and then scoring.

Arsenal are not going to win the title this year, and in our last 8 games against the top 2 teams, Chelsea and Manchester United, we have played 8, won 0, drawn 1, lost 7, conceded 17 and scored 4. We need to improve defensively if we want to beat these teams, because letting the first goal in always makes it unlikely we will score because they will defend, and they're good at defending.