Arsenal are at a cross roads. As they have been for four years since 2005, the media would say. We reached the semi-finals of two prestigious cup competitions and still are branded to have had a stinker of a season. Why?
1. The media has other teams like United, Chelsea an Liv'pool to crib about, multi-gazillion worth players to sing paeans about. So why care about a team that wouldn't take even the worth of a single C. Ronaldo to assemble? In a heavily marketed game, and even heavily marketed transfer season, if you are worth less, you are worthless....(pun intended).
2. When Arsenal are at their fluent best, they look so possessed (literally), arrogant in their bold passing play, and fluid like foam over a beach hugging wave. As such, the expectation of the media soars and any mediocre performance in the next game brings up the "no good!" remarks up again.
In fact it generally bodes well that we still consider a semi final showing in the CL as a setback, coz it only makes the team hungrier and tougher to beat.
What should the team do, to ensure a trophy clutching photograph before May next year?
1. Defend well at the set pieces. So many times have Arsenal conceded goals from free kicks and corners in the last season especially against the mid table and lower rung teams. Remember Fulham,Hull and Stoke. Nine points lost simply due to lack of concentration/effort/zeal to guard the goal and muscle out the tall players from their position. This is something Arsene Wenger will address to, having partially found a solution in vermaelen, and would be complete if hangeland makes the switch, or even if Upson comes back to N5. The best scenario would be Senderos or Djourou coming good, which they definitely can.
2. Attackers should track back to win the ball and effect a counter strike instead of waiting for the ball to arrive. With Adebayor gone, there shall be more effort to win the ball, as is the case with Arshavin , Van persie and even Eduardo. Bendtner and Walcott need to improve in this area, coz Bendtner due to his height and muscle, and Walcott due to his tremendous balancing ability can definitely be good ball winners. In face Walcott has a model in Fabregas, easily the best and most technical tackler in the team, and in Arshavin, the most intelligent and intuitive ball snatcher in the team already. Bendtner can definitely look up to Gallas, the team's talisman, who not only puts great blocks at the crunch moments, but is the player who is most likely to score for the team,on a frustrating day on the grass.
3. Keep the ball. Too many times Arsenal keep the opposition mesmerised with their accurate and intricate passing. But something that they dont do as well as Barcelona is to keep possession for long periods and then try immediately to get it back once the ball is lost. It is in this context that the CDM role has been much harped about for no real reason. If you remember United's playing style, in a 4-3-3, with carrick, anderson and giggs as the midfield, none of them hard tacklers in the Makelele- mould, they were still able to win most balls near the half line and launch a counter attack with lobs or even pin pointed passes. It is something of a same for us. Song, Diaby, Denilson are often guilty of losing possession cheaply, and hence causing the team to break up its play, with the forwards stranded in the opposition half and unable to track back immediately.
4. Man marking. Against quality teams, Arsenal defence many a times allows a burly forward to cruise ahead from the centre and go for a one on one. Like Drogba, Anelka, agbonlahor, rooney. In such games, atleast our defence should set up shop before the goal keeper and stop trying to play Wenger ball. Proper clearances should be given priority and always the goal keeper should opt for a long kick instead of a roll down to the nearest defender. May be the team would look less glamourous, but atleast even a one goal lead would then be defend-able. This is what Chelsea and Liverpool do. Defend Defend and wait, score at the first opportunity.
5. Transfers: I believe the team is more or less complete, with all sorts of playing styles. I only wish to see Gibbs and Ramsey in the central mid field role more often, atleast in the European games, as they are terrific possession players. Gibbs also plays CDM for the England under 21 side. However, if we can sign, we should try veloso and chamakh, or may be take a shot at dzeko. Best would however be getting Hangeland or Upson, and along with him veloso or matuidi, with Chamakh thrown in. All three players would be affordable after the fortuitous sale of toure and adebayor.
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