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Trying to find Overmars

As I have watched the team at times struggle to rediscover the midfield balance that for the most part we had found last season I have felt for sometime that contrary to the popular view that we have lost something in central midfield our biggest struggle has been in the wide areas. It is in rebalancing midfield to adapt to these changes and using those players we have now that, in my view, has caused us to stutter at times.

A week or so back Ray Parlour appeared on a Sky program and spoke of his time in Arsenal`s midfield. He described his role as largely defensive with the encouragement to express himself in an attacking sense when he felt free to do so. He recalled his partnership with Vieira and Petit with Overmars making up the 4th midfielder. Parlour thought that Overmars midfield role was only a nominal one as he didn`t track back and played more of a direct and individual role. As Overmars moved forward he, Vieira and Petit would move across to cover his position and Bergkamp would drop deeper.

That role involved Parlour, Vieira and Petit limiting their attacking play in order to provide the security for Bergkamp to play as the attacking midfielder and Overmars and Anelka to play as forwards. None of that midfield trio were ever great goal scorers in their time with the club and certainly not in that midfield set up. Yet now we tend to expect more goals from the existing midfield than we accepted from them.

Overmars left and found as many do that at least 60% of his success was due to the contribution of the players supporting him and the way that others utilised his skills. Meanwhile Pires replaced him, an altogether different player with greater ball skills and passing ability relying more on his skill at fashioning chances for others than others having to adapt to him. In similar forms, with some variants, that general midfield pattern has persisted ever since. Until now that is.

With the departure of Hleb, the indisposition of Rosicky and the need to accommodate Walcott midfield is once again looking to embrace the pattern of play adopted to get the best out of Overmars. Finding this pattern has proved more elusive as the other midfielders have to adapt their 'natural` game (or at least the style they played for much of last season) and nobody yet quite meets the level of Bergkamp in playing as an attacking midfielder in that pattern.

There are other factors. Even with the understanding to play the midfield role as Petit, Vieira and Parlour did the current midfield options, with the exception of Eboue, aren`t yet at the same stage of physical development. Walcott himself doesn`t yet have either the physical strength or the match experience of Overmars though in many ways he is a far more explosive player with an erratic but often great touch. At the same time van Persie is also more of a striker in a Henry/Anelka mould than he is Bergkamp with what he is missing in their electric pace compensated for in his sublime skill.

No one could be Bergkamp but we need to find someone to play a similar role effectively if we are to get the most from Walcott and at the same time use van Persie as surely we should attempt to do with someone of his quality. Find the right link player to create a left/right forward combination involving those two creates an interesting proposition. At present Adebayor offers different qualities that might not comfortably accommodate him and Walcott other than along something like Toshack/Keegan lines - a tactic that sits less comfortably with our playing style.

Those that mourn our failure to replicate the midfield of last season perhaps need to consider that we are having to find a pattern of midfield play more along the lines of 10 years ago in order to better suit the players we have now. That balance hasn`t yet been found and depending on how long Walcott is out maybe that particularly search will be postponed. But if Walcott is here as an integral part of the team for the long term it won`t be long before we again need to find a balance that makes the most of his abilities. The eventual return of Eduardo, and to a lesser extent Rosicky, may allow some interesting options as we seek that balance.

The challenge for us though is that in order to find Overmars we may first have to find Bergkamp.



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The Journalist

Writer: Amos Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday November 4 2008

Time: 9:38AM

Your Comments

what about kuzmanovic? i think hes kind of all round, we can play him in the centre, or at right wing, good build, or maybe leon andreasen, but hes more of a defensive type
gooner_till_i_die
the thing is that walcott is still not as good as overmas.
korodon
Well to be fair to Theo koro, he isn't really a winger is he! He is having to learn his trade there and Overmars was 24 I think when he joined us so he was coming into his prime and indeed was at his prime for us. By the time Theo is 24 he will be as good as Overmars and possibly better. Also up until he joined in 1997 he had been playing for Ajax on a regular basis too. God i've got a good memory! lol!
itsup4grabsnow
Well good news then, Overmars recently came out of retirement and plays in Holland at the moment. Your midfield problem is solved, lol!
RussianHammer
Good analysis Amos (although I have read it before on the forum). There is an impact due the imbalance, particularly from Theo, as his ball retention skills and tracking back need to improve a lot. It is only one of the factors that has contributed to a shaky defensive performance. We seem to be conceding goals to shots from outside the area also which ought to be shut down by the DM. A combination of these 2 is exposing the defence which is unable to cope, thus making the CBs look weaker than they are. Put these 3 together, and you have Arsenal. I think Wenger should play Eboue & Nasri out wide to strike a better balance.
prits
Theo can and will improve his all round play but he will never be a wide midfielder anymore than Overmars was. Eboue and Nasri would bring us closer to the make up of the midfield last season but that doesn't solve the issue of how to integrate Walcott. We have played/started Walcott so often this season that that is clearly something Wenger is looking to do. How to do it is the question. As for shutting down shots from outside the area any one can close a player down - you needn't be a DM to do so.
Amos.
I agree with prits. Stick Eboue on the right with samir on the left.
ArsenalRob
I would consider playing Bendtner up front alongside Eduardo/Vela. He is the closest we have to Bergkamp. But we need to resist playing three central midfielders. I would still stick with Nasri and Walcott on the wings but we need a partner for Fabregas that works. If we had a player of similar quality to Gilberto alongside Fabregas we would require less defensive balance as Theo would be playing a more "Ljungberg" role compared to Overmars. So it would be more like the Invincibles with Cesc as the engine room rather than Vieira. Lehmann/Fabianski; Lauren/Sagna - Campbell/Djourou - Toure/Toure, Gallas or new CB - Cole/Clichy; Ljungberg/Walcott - Gilberto/Song, Ramsey, Denilson or new DM - Vieira/Fabregas - Pires/Nasri; Bergkamp/Bendtner - Henry/Edaurdo or Vela. If we were to sort out that midfield partner for Fabregas we would have a more workable formation. And if Walcott were to recieve the correct passes from Bendtner and Fabregas (whilst make the right runs) we could cope with the loss of Sagna as an attacking threat and therefore be less vulberable to attacks down our right hand side. Clichy and Nasri could form a brilliant partnership and I also think that Eduardo and Bendtner would be a brilliant strike force.
Tom14
The problem with that formation is that Walcott cannot and will not play the role that Ljungberg did in terms of work rate, tracking back, covering and competing and still use the qualities he is in the team for. Where ever you play him he will still essentially be a forward. The other midfielders will have to adjust to accommodate him.
Amos.
Thats fair enough. My main problem is that I would rather play Diaby or Eboue on the right instead of Theo. That is a workable solution for us. But Theo is a player that we cannot leave out. He can't play up front because he is not tried out there and we have better options. We could play a 433? Fabianski; Sagna - Djourou - Gallas - Clichy; Fabregas - Song - Nasri; Walcott - Bendtner/Adebayor - Eduardo/Vela. That could work. Song is better suited to playing a full on deep defensive midfielder in the way Gilberto did. And with Samir in there ahead of Denilson (in his favoured position, attacking midfielder) we have more of a natural support for the front man rather than Fabregas, who is better coming from deep to pass the balls to the forwards. In fact, I love that formation. All we need is a better center back partnership and a better defensive midfielder. Its a bit like the team Barca play. But only one full back would be able to go forward (in a similar way that the 1998 team did, the others accomodate for the attacker). Hopefully I am onto something.
Tom14
Great stuff Amos, I never thought about it this way before. We understand Theo's an attacker who can't/doesn't defend. Looking at how ManU's other midfielders accommodate someone like that in Ronaldo and their workhorse strikers in Rooney and Tevez who track back to help in midfield, I guess I know what you mean. I can see us moving towards a better balance by having Eboue, Nasri or, better still imo, Rosicky when available (I know I know). While that's a possible option on paper, we need to see the real combo to tell if it works.
GoonerLou
surley like attacking players like theo etc are great, so when they dont have the ball there mentailty shud be defend get back an help out ur full back an get goal side of the ball, i say this to all attackin midfielders. some get awey wihth it more then others
123spurs
tom 14, how does fabregas song nasri work? (not criticising, just wondering) does that mean we play twin playmaker? with fabregas and nasri, and song as a holding?
gooner_till_i_die
One name: Amaury Bischoff (tongue in cheek)
G4L
Song holding with fabregas playing aroung the center circle and Nasri in a free role. I am only suggesting this because we do not have any top class defensive midfielders. If we had Flamini I would play a 442 with Theo and Nasri on the wings with whatever strikers that work up front.
Tom14
Tom14, that leaves you no balance or structure in front of the back 4 as the mdifield would be bypassed on the wings. Sorry mate it won't work, you need solidarity across the middle with a minimum of two sittingon the halfway line or there abouts and fullbacks who can come forward to make up the numbers. Seen it for decades when following football and that won't change mukka!
LondonGooner
I would much rather 442 but i was thinking of a formation that would encorperate Theo and nasri.
Tom14
I understand, but you can never disrupt the shape of a team for the sake of players. Just look what happened against Spurs when he took off 3 players and reshuffled to accomodate 3 entirely different players......nightmare! (shiver)
LondonGooner
 

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