Gunners Toothless Against Defensive-Minded Opponents

Joseph KutialoContributor IJanuary 12, 2009

Arsenal’s approach and philosophy of play is anchored by quick through passes blended with attacking flair in 4-4-2 system. This formation enabled them to win three Premier League and four FA Cup trophies, winning the 2003-2004 EPL season without losing a single match under Arsene Wenger’s management.

They penetrated easily all types of defensive formations during the days of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, Fredrik Ljungberg, and Nwanko Kanu, among others.

These players possessed physical, technical, and mental abilities that matched diverse game plans of Premier League teams. Henry, Pires, and Vieira combined well by executing slick-passing and faster-attacking flair football from the midfield to the flanks. They were creative and hence, changed their game plan quickly depending on the opponent's tactics.

After their exodus during the Gunners' transition period, things changed drastically. The new signings, namely Emmanuel Adebayor, Abou Diaby, Theo Walcott, and Tomas Rosicky, with the young players from Arsenal's academy, have not acclimatized well with the Gunners' playing formation. The current crop of players lacks passion, mental, and creative abilities required to play against defensive-minded opponents.

The Premier League teams that used to be rated as underdogs have discovered that Arsenal is stoppable when you close all the space in the midfield and park the defense. AW's playing formation has remained the same since the professor took over the managerial task.

They have always initiated their attacking from the defense to the midfield through their slick passes executed in a triangle form. Shooting from outside the box and long, aerial ball tactics are avoided.

Through and short passes dominate their attacking prowess.Thus, when playing against physical teams like Bolton and Stoke City, among others in the EPL, who prefer 4-5-1 systems of play, it becomes difficult for the strikers to penetrate a nine-man wall.

Arsenal has played well against 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 formations that give them space to utilize their quick short passes and attacking flair that precipitated so many of their classic goals. When allowed to display their style of play they are unstoppable and have won most of their fixtures against attacking minded opponents.

However, all is not lost. I still believe the Gunners' playing formation can bring success if creative-minded players can be signed during this January transfer window to impart fluidity, sparkle, and life in the current Arsenal midfield. The lack of the Fabregas, Hleb, and Flamini combination is being felt greatly.

These players combined well in the 2007-2008 EPL season, when initiating the Gunners' attacking flair. Their creative and defensive abilities propelled Arsenal to the top of the EPL table.

The departures of Hleb and Flamini affected Arsenal's creative abilities in the midfield that were displayed in last year's EPL season, thus culminating in the poor performances against smaller teams who like parking their defense.

Arsenal's playing style is entertaining to watch. That is why many Gooners support them. But AW needs to recognize that in a competition like the EPL, points obtained are more important than the playing style. I am not saying that the Gunners should win in an ugly way. They must blend their sexy football with success in terms of goals scored to get maximum points of champions.

AW should strengthen the midfield with creative players who can change the game during the time of when facing defensive opponents.

He should encourage players to shoot outside the box in addition to learning to utilize corner kicks and set pieces—other options of scoring when playing against physical opponents.

Playing the same formation against every opponent and lack of creativity in the current Arsenal midfield is the reason why I assert that the Gunners are toothless against defensive opponents. The Bolton, Portsmouth, and Stoke City matches are good examples to justify my personal opinion.

Die-hard Gooner for life. Gooners let me hear views on this article.