Arsenal Trying Too Hard to Be Like Spain?

Robert StarkContributor IFebruary 5, 2010

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - JUNE 29: Cesc Fabregas of Spain celebrates victory after the UEFA EURO 2008 Final match between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 29, 2008 in Vienna, Austria.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Its Sunday the 31st of January. I have just walked back from the pub, and have just witnessed by beloved Arsenal getting trounced by Manchester United at home. I am pretty angry. Why did the Gunners capitulate? The Arsenal are like Page Three girls. They look good, trendy, and flashy, but there's not much there.

In despair, I turn on the radio and listen to 606 which I only ever do when I want to hear other fans moan after a loss. The show was full of the usual rhetoric about Arsenal. "Too much flair, no end product!" Or "they need a striker!" Or "they are too lightweight in midfield." But it wasn't those words that struck me but something that Spoony said.

Now I hate to make Spoony sound like a genius but he actually might be he. He said: "I have a reliable source who tells me that after Spain won Euro 2008, Arsene Wenger said, 'the Spanish Team's style was the future football'."

That got me thinking...

Since Wenger arrived in in the mid 1990s Arsenal have been very much a 4-4-2 team. They had some big players in the likes of Keown, Adams and Viera. When Wenger first arrived, Arsenal were a "dirty" team. They got more yellow and red cards than anybody else. Even when they had world class strikers, they were still ready to play physical football.

But as we look to 2008/2009 and 2009/2010, Arsenal have changed beyond belief. They now play 4-3-3 and lack a physical bite to their game.

Now I agree with Spoony and think this has EVERYTHING to do with Euro 2008. Spain played with small mobile midfielders based around a game which was all about dominating possession and intricate passing. Now does that sound familiar?

Still not convinced? Ok, lets compare the two sides. Below is the line-up from Spain's final against Germany. Aragones (the Spain manager) used "false wingers" so he could field Iniesta, Fabregas, Xavi, and Silva in the same team. False Wingers are not out and out wingers and often are comfortable in the middle dominating possession.

Essentially this allowed him to field a 4-4-3 formation which could inevitable be changed to 4-5-1 or 4-2-4 during defence or on the counter attack. To make this work Spain need the wing-backs to roam forward whenever possible and a world class striker. 

So Spain in Euro 2008:

Casillas - GK

Capdevila - LB, Puyol - CB, Marchena - CB, Ramos - RB

Senna - DB

Xavi - CM, Fabregas - CM

Iniesta - Right False Winger, Torres - CF , Silva - Left False Winger


So let's compare that to Arsenal strongest side (when players are all fit) in 2010.


Casillas - GK

Clichy - LB, Vermaelen - CB, Gallas - CB, Sagna - RB

Song - DB

Diaby/Denilson - CM, Fabregas - CM

Walcott/Arshavin - Right False Winger, Robin Van Persie - CF , Samir Nasri- Left False Winger


See, not much difference in terms of player stature or team playing style. The only difference being Walcott is similar to Silva as they can actually operate as wingers. The midfield is very similar to Spain's—hugely lightweight but love to dominate possession.

So is it wrong to want to play like Spain?

Well no. But they need the right personal. 

First, Arsenal need to tighten up in defence. Ramos and Capdevila are tall fullbacks which is a huge asset for defending set pieces. Arsenal's greatest weakness is set pieces.

Second, Arsenal need a world-class striker who is fit. Spain needed Torres playing to win that final. Arsenal need a world-class striker playing all the time. Oh for another Henry!

Third, central midfield needs to be sorted out. Song is good but he is not a Senna (who made Spain tick). And beside Fabregas, is Diaby or Denilson anything like Xavi or Iniesta? 

So in conclusion Arsenal are trying to play more like Spain. But in order to pull it off they need the right players in midfield and defence. Even Spain had height at the back. Fabregas urgently needs help. How about a striker? Bendtner? Well, he needs to become Fernando Torres.

Looks like third place this year.