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.

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