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Our Struggle To Create Highlights Need For a DM


The result at Valley Parade on Tuesday night may have come as a shock to many, but Arsenal`s directionless performance should not have. Arsene Wenger`s demand for consistency after last Saturday`s rather fortuitous win at home to a West Brom side experiencing something of a blip in form after a flying start to the season was well-intentioned and suitable for the media - one must always remember that Wenger intends not to speak his mind but to give pundits as little as possible to sink their vulture-like beaks into - but ultimately misplaced. Against the Baggies Arsenal managed a mere 7 shots on target, 2 of which were spot-kicks, and had caprice to thank for the points. Prior to the match at Valley Parade Arsenal had hit the target just 68 times in their 11 games since returning from the international break to face Norwich at Carrow Road on October the 20th (excluding the anomalous Reading tie and games vs 10 men) - a meagre 6.2 shots on target per match - and it`s hard to remember us having many clear chances in this time period at all. At Bradford Arsenal were, in this regard, indeed consistent to their previous performance, mustering only 12 shots on target in the 120 minutes, but this time received no such charity. By comparison, Everton - a side composed largely of talented, but by no means extraordinary, players who clearly relish their roles in the team - average 9.4 shots on target in their last 10 games. Manchester United average only 7.3 shots in their last 10, but after last season Arsenal fans know very well that with the kind of firepower they possess, including a certain notable Dutchman in particular, this is sufficient for them to get goals.

So, given the creative talent at our disposal, why are we not carving out more goal-scoring opportunities and how could the problem be rectified? Whatever you think of the man, Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff have a colossal amount of knowledge and experience in football, so if they aren`t getting the team to click I`m not going to pretend that I have a definitive answer. However, it does seem to me that there are certain contradictions and imbalances in the team`s attacking philosophy that are rather blatant to see from the stands or on the TV.

Arteta and Wilshere have never made a habit of making runs into the box - although the latter may yet add this to his game in the future- and the drastically unconfident Ramsey has been largely consigned to an unfamiliar position on the wing. This gives Cazorla and his midfield partners very few bodies to play off in the box and the lack of movement through the centre of the pitch makes diagonal runs from the flank into the area more conspicuous and easier to pick up. Hence, Podolski has tended to stay wide, where he looks very uncomfortable, and has in many games been anonymous. In the same position, Gervinho is more ready to take possession and head to the byline, but once more the lack of options in the middle make it very hard for him to pick out a final ball. His technique and awareness is certainly questionable, but with van Persie`s exceptionally sharp movement to pick out last season he claimed numerous assists before heading to the African Cup of Nations after putting in outstanding performances against Stoke, Chelsea and Wigan. Despite being the most frustrating player I've ever had the misfortune to watch, he can definitely make a positive contribution with the right support. His run and cut-back for Rosicky`s goal in Athens last week was evidence of this.

It is widely agreed that, in terms of individual talent, Arsenal are strongest in midfield. With Santi Cazorla already seen as something of a talisman and our main creative spark, our players regularly try to engineer the ball towards him when gaps in the opposition`s defence aren`t apparent. In order to stretch play and provide him with space, our wide forwards tend to station themselves within 5-10 yards of the touchline when we`re in possession. Until Abou Diaby, whose powerful bursts from midfield into the penalty area (with and without the ball) were a notable feature of the games in which he featured, came off injured in the early stages of the Chelsea match in September - our first defeat of the season - this was fairly effective. The forward presence of Diaby and Giroud pushed midfielders back towards their own penalty area and made space for Cazorla to drift, often exchanging passes with Podolski before taking up a position on the left, allowing Podolski to make himself available closer to goal - a feature reminiscent of his displays in the 2010 World Cup when Germany`s flexible but organized system saw Özil drift wide and allow Podolski to get himself into goal-scoring positions. The seemingly telepathic relationship between Cazorla and Podolski was touted amongst many as having the potential to lead Arsenal`s Premier League challenge. Without Diaby`s part in this triangle, however, Podolski`s on-field relationship with Cazorla has grown distant.

Thus, if the ball isn`t finding Giroud it`s not finding anyone. The ball comes back out and, with defenders willingly pushing the play out wide, the pattern repeats until it breaks down - hence the recent stereotypical image of Arsenal being benignly camped outside the opposition`s penalty area. Encouraging the likes of Cazorla to more frequently make runs behind Giroud in order to benefit from a knock-down or defensive uncertainty (a favoured tactic of teams playing against us) would certainly be an improvement, although it would be hugely demanding of both the skill of Giroud and good fortune to rely on this leading to many goals. When the wide players do make runs to the byline Giroud`s movement is intelligent - not dissimilar to what RvP was doing last season - but simply not as sharp as his Dutch predecessor, and his lack of acceleration means he has been less effective when making runs in front of defenders from their blind side. Furthermore, his close control, while far from disastrous, is not of the extremely high calibre necessary for a lone striker to consistently knit play together in the penalty area and make team-mates confident that their runs into the penalty area will be rewarded.

Last season, RvP`s phenomenal movement off the ball in and around the box gave the likes of Walcott, Gervinho and Chamberlain direction. His short early runs towards the posts dragged defenders with him and left space behind him for a runner from wide (Walcott`s run in the build-up for Chamberlain`s 2nd goal vs Blackburn springs to mind) or central midfield (e.g. Arteta`s goal vs West Brom) to burst into. Alternatively, he would often start such a run before checking it early - selling the defender towards his near post and giving himself a couple of yards of space to allow the low cross from wide - a manoeuvre that was pivotal for many of Walcott and Gervinho`s assists last season (see his first goal of the season vs Udinese for an example). His speed of thought ensured that once the byline was reached there were almost bound to be options for the winger.

Unfortunately, Giroud`s qualities don`t lend themselves to this role. Clearly, his aerial prowess is his most potent weapon, and so team-mates prefer to play the ball in with a higher trajectory and from a deeper position so that Giroud can make forward runs onto the ball rather than having to lean backwards to make a connection with his head. Whilst Giroud`s outstanding heading ability means that this will may well lead to him reaching a decent goalscoring tally, it makes it significantly more difficult for a team with a possession-focussed playing-style to make supporting runs. The likes of Cazorla, Rosicky, Wilshere, Arteta, Walcott, Gervinho, Chamberlain and Podolski are hardly the most willing or able headerers of the ball (I`m not sure I`ve ever seen a player so averse to heading a football than Gervinho - perhaps he doesn`t want to blemish the polish on his forehead?) and when crosses from deep come in they prefer to sit back and attempt to pick up the pieces rather than gambling on the second-ball.

In layman`s terms, Giroud needs more support. To give him this support, the wide forwards must get tighter to him and provide options for the likes of Cazorla, Rosicky and Wilshere, who would then be able to utilise their close control and one-touch passing in more dangerous areas than those in which they currently tend to find themselves. Of course, this wouldn`t necessarily narrow our offensive focus as it would open up space for the full-backs to drive into, and with the wide forwards playing closer to Giroud, they are likely to have more targets in the box. As an added bonus, this adjustment would move Walcott closer the central role he claims to covert so dearly, and playing in closer proximity to his fellow forwards would surely help Gervinho to play a successful final ball after skipping past defenders. However, with no natural defensive midfielder in the squad, Sagna and the increasingly responsible Gibbs would be hesitant to exploit the space created by this simple formational adjustment whilst the wide forwards are in and around the box and unready to track back. Arteta has performed admirably in an unfavoured deeper role, but his though his positional sense is excellent he lacks the dynamism to act as an effective shield against swift counter-attacks. Despite the regularity of Song`s ill-advised forays forward last season, his presence in the team was clearly of benefit to the confidence of both Gibbs and Sagna to move up their respective flanks, with his enthusiastic covering runs to mop up at left and right-back a regular and memorable sight of the last couple of seasons - arguably unjustly overshadowing those occasions when he was nowhere to be seen.

Hence, despite us having the third best defensive record in the Premier League and though our goal-scoring form is clearly the main issue, I would be more disposed to seeing us invest in a natural defensive midfielder to allow our attacking players to flourish than I would to seeing us add to our lot up front in January - though I`d be far from upset to see quality added in this department as well! Although it`s easy to look back with regret at the quality of offensive players we`ve lost over the last few years, it`s hard to deny that we possess greater individual attacking quality than we are currently showing on the pitch. When Arsenal adopted a 4-3-3 formation in advance of the 09/10 season not only did van Persie have to adapt to his new role as Arsenal`s centre-forward; the team adapted to accommodate his fairly unique way of playing this position. Though it may hurt to admit it, very few players in world football can play the same role and now that we`re without him we need to reacclimatise to support the more traditional centre-forward that we have. For the reasons outline above adding a defensive stabiliser in midfield could prove to be the catalyst for this. Though the addition of offensive players may add horsepower to Arsenal`s engine, it is a natural, disciplined defensive midfielder that could see us finally lift that much talked about handbrake, move up the gears and finally pick up the pace. The change we so desperately require on the pitch is almost certainly not a dramatic one, but its consequences could be.

Rob Stone - @RobStoneAFC (Twitter)




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The Journalist

Writer: GoldenArse Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday December 13 2012

Time: 10:01AM

Your Comments

Sorry I had to use the term"DM" (I really hate it) but there is a limit on the number of characters we can use in a headline.
Rocky7
Some interesting themes in that piece and I agree that there is more going for Gervinho than many will accept (though Eboueitis isn't one of them). There is a midfield problem but it isn't one that will be solved by recruiting a defensive midfielder (even though we could do with some cover for Arteta). We only managed a shot on target at all against Bradford when Rosicky came on so all 12, if that's what it was, came in the 50 minutes that Tomas played. You might also take a look at the stark difference between our first half against Olympiacos and the second when Rosicky was removed to get some hint as to what we might be lacking. We usually average about 4 to 6 PL games a season in which we fail to score. This season we've already notched up 5 games. Keeping clean sheets is our problem but at the other end. We do need a midfielder that can get us further up the pitch and keep us there but that won't be a defensive option to Arteta it will be a creative option to Rosicky.
Amos.
I quite like it Rock; reminds me of playing champman as a teenager...

I would argue that the problems Arsenal are having at the moment are purely down to confidence and perception - the players lack confidence, and the world perceives Arsenal as weak. Ask the average person how good our defence is, and they won't say 'third best in the premier league', even though that is the fact of the matter after half a season. Teams come to us believing they'll win, because of the constant media/message-board ramblings about how we are so awful and it's been 7 years.
damiano_tommassi
For crying out loud they don't come to emirates and not fear us because of what the media have told them - they play Arsenal and think they're in with a chance because of what they've seen with their own eyes. This is not some media conspiracy that's making us weak - it's our own performances. You make out like it's everyone else's fault for us playing poorly.
shewore
No, each individual is responsible for his own actions. However a ten-year media campaign ranging from 'they're all bloody French', through 'they're dirty and get too many red cards', 'they don't like it up 'em, they're a soft touch', 'they 're not good enough to finish in the top four', 'spend some fuc*ing money', 'it's been 7 years and that's just not good enough', 'the defence is awful' has to have a psychological effect. It changes perceptions. Conspiracy is too strong a word, but "lazy, cliched 'journalism'" fits quite snugly.
damiano_tommassi
Those journalists write about other clubs as well, good journalists are very kind to Wenger and only recently have they been genuinely questioning him yet nearly all of them are behind him. This is a bit tin hat for me. The poor performances are no one's fault but the team's, simple as that.
shewore
Of course it's the teams fault and I suppose every clubs supporters are bound to be more sensitive to negative press about their own team. That being said there does to be more of a media need for a crisis at Arsenal than elsewhere. MOTD and virtually every Sky program seemed to see diving as much more of a problem last weekend. In turn some of our supporters perception of their club seems to be increasingly of one in crisis whereas in reality, while it hasn't met lofty expectations, it's really in a far better place than is being portrayed. Does that 'sinking ship' perception and the resulting atmosphere discourage our players and encourage those of others? Perhaps. Does that mean the coaching team has to work harder to build and sustain confidence among the players in the face of the negative vibes? Probably but they're professionals and it's part of the job so I guess that's over analysing it. Maybe we'd be better off changing the manager and buying some more players.
Amos.
I think a DM does make a big difference. you only have to look at Southamption pre- and post- Jack Cork's return from injury. Before it they leaked goals like no-one's business, after it they look a solid dependable team down to conceding less than a goal per game. In our case we need someone who is not just a good competitor like Arteta or Coquelin, but someone who would take players/areas of the pitch completely out of the game like Song did. In Chamberlain though we have a player that has stated he wants to play DM, he's shown he has that ball-winning ability, he has good presence and good defensive awareness. He's young but he already had a full season in League One two years ago that ended up with him being named in the team of the season, I think given a similar chance to Coquelin he would excel. I wouldn't mind buying a DM now, but the two guys who look outstanding at the moment (Cork and Yacob) have not had enough time to really prove themselves. I would rather give Chamberlain a chance now and buy quality, proven attacking players - Nani for instance. He's been pictured at our training ground, looks a very good shout at the moment.
Arsenales F.C
I think we need another creative player. Cazorla's dive against West Brom brought him a figure of 2 assists in 12 games. He's a fabulous player but everything he does is in front of a defence. As Amos alludes, Rosicky is the closest we have because he plays between the lines a bit more.
Little Dutch
Thanks everyone for the feedback. Perhaps the title is slightly misleading (I admit that the shock-factor did appeal somewhat). My principle tactical concern with the side is the distance between Giroud and his fellow forwards. I’d like to our forwards move further infield and our full-backs push up more regularly into the space they vacate. The defensive midfielder would be the final piece in this particular puzzle, as he’d allow the full-backs to do this without leaving us totally exposed to the counter. The bodies that adding a more defensively-minded midfielder would allow us to have forward is what I believe could ‘get us further up the pitch and keep us there‘ I do agree with Amos and LD that Rosicky – one of my personal favourites – adds a lot to the pace of our attacking game with his sharp turns and quick thinking but I think these weapons would be put to far more efficient use if he was given more options to play off centrally, although I do think that his game encourages this as team-mates drift infield to support those snappy passes he enjoys playing around the ‘D’. Likewise, Cazorla’s game needn’t be played solely in front of a defence. As the most marked man in our team, it is extremely hard for him to find space anywhere, let alone inside the box, but if there were more runners ahead of him he’d have a far better chance of making himself available closer to goal.
GoldenArse
Damiano_tommassi - certainly confidence does play a huge part in it all, and I’d argue that one of the most notable effects of a loss of confidence to a team is very often an increased rigidity of formation. When the belief ebbs away, the focus of the players tends back towards ‘the basics’ and doing what they believe to be their primary role to the best of their ability. For this reason the side is more static offensively and players are more hesitant to take a gamble by drifting out of position and making forward runs.
GoldenArse
Arsenales - I’m far from convinced that Chamberlain would be comfortable in defensive midfield. He showed some real promise in a deeper midfield role in pre-season but rather than shielding the defence his game was more focussed on carrying the ball forward and instigating attacks before making late runs into the box in a manner not dissimilar to a young Steven Gerrard. He can put a good challenge in and is very committed wherever he plays, but his highly positive, direct style of play isn’t naturally conducive to a full-time defensive role.
GoldenArse
Any DM replacement for Arteta needs to be quick. Arteta's biggest weakness is pace. He can't recover and often is forced to foul as a result. There are tactical solutions available. First would be bring in Ros for Jack and have him play much closer to Arteta as a second outlet for the defence. Then, encourage greater interplay between the two. We seem reluctant to use our high technical skill level to our advantage. Cesc and Song / Gilberto did this all the time to unpick high pressing defenses. With TR7 back we could try Caz out wide with Jack at CAM. I didn't see much of the Bradford game, but what has struck me this season is the lack of dynamism across the park. I think this is why so many want Walcott to stay. His direct, high speed play moves us forward. TR7 also gives us this in the middle. Neither Caz, Jack or Arteta have that explosive movement and I think our formation needs it. Jack may get it as he finds his true form.
DeadwoodGooner
Didn't Wenger suggest earlier this season that the age of the defensive midfielder was over and that a more flexible midfield had evolved in the game? I don't see that the introduction of one now would enable our full backs to get forward any more than they do now. The problem is one of getting our midfielders forward quickly enough. Quality and speed of passing, ball retention and tempo are what's missing. If the attack is working better than it is currently the defence will work better too.
Amos.
How do you replace the phenominal players you've lost since Henry left? Fabregas, Nasri, Clichy, Song & RVP to name the most recent & prominent. All, I would suggest, border on the irreplaceable & this current squad of yours is probably the most transitional you've ever had. You need patience my friends, along with accepting the possibility that this time, you just might miss out on CL just like we probably will.

Spuds-U-Like
West Beom and Southampton would disagree that the age of the DM is dead. West brom are in a great position right now and their standout player has been the DM Yacoh. Southampton were leaking about 3 goals per game until the return of Cork from injury since then they concede less than a goal a game. The evidence says it's as important as ever. @goldenarse Back when I was Diaby's biggest cheerleader there was a similar argument against Diaby but for me on the basis of the amount of challenges he made and won I thought he could, same with chamberlain. The diff between him and coquelin is that coquelin will be a good competitor, chamberlain will run right through a player get that ball first and be ready to start an attack in the blink of an eye. He will be taking players completely out of the game, I can't see coquelin ever doing that, he will only be a good competitor not dominant, he is similar to denilson, I remember an nld 2 seasons ago where denilson and song played. Denilson looked a good competitor, always facing the man when he had the ball but song was dominant. There was literally a huge area of the pitch devoid of Spurs passes that corresponded to where song was on the pitch if I was on my pc I'd show the graphic, I've never seen anything like it, that's the sort of dominance we need. I still don't think we should've sold song but that's by-the-by really, right now we need to find a solution for that role and I really don't see coquelin as that solution
Arsenales f.C
http://s11.postimage.org/x5d9bu9eb/Song_square.jpg We lost the game and I recall Song was getting heavily criticised, whilst Denilson was praised because it looked like every time a Spurs player got the ball Denilson was there in close proximity to make him think, but he was just a competitor he wasn't dominant like Song was. Song took out a whole area of the pitch. I see it with Coquelin as well, he looks good, but it's not there. The area of the pitch is not coincidental either, it's where Wenger's told Song Gareth Bale will be. If Denilson/Coquelin were told to do that I'm not sure they could, but Chamberlain looks like he's got it in his game, he's quick and dominant enough to take a player or an area of the pitch out of the game. The skill and play is there as well so when he wins the ball he could be like a Davids getting into space immediately. Although Yacob/Cork may be worth a try. It's been a while since the league had any really outstanding looking DMs, but though it's early days they look the business. Cork's had both the Chelsea and the Southampton education which speaks in his favour and although I was already looking for him, the effect he's had is unbelievable. From 24 goals conceded in 9 games, to just 4 conceded in their next 6 games after his return. Yacob is looking like Arturo Vidal at the moment, and W. Brom are flying in 4th but it's early days. The benefit with these two is that they're our league so we'll know all about them. But there's not been enough time to truly assess them properly. I would rather go with an attacking player we know more about and ind out more about Chamberlain's abilities at DM. We need a long term solution for our attacking line, Chamberlain's physical attributes and mindset should see him in midfield undoubtedly.
Arsenales F.C
"The Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen said yesterday that he turned down Arsenal because Arsène Wenger wanted to convert him into a midfielder. He said: "[Arsenal's interest] was concrete, but they wanted me to be a controller in the midfield, an Emmanuel Petit-type. I'm not afraid of competition, but the overall picture of Spurs appealed to me more." So why exactly is Wenger still playing this game of converting players from their natural positions? Anyone who imagines Arteta to be a natural DM has just bought into the manager's fantasy football world where he alone 'discovers their true calling'. Frankly its a farce and Wenger isn't being taken to task over it.
Wyn Mills
Nothing new in that. Don Howe converted midfielder McLintock into a central defender, forward Graham into midfield, full back Storey into a midfielder and fullback/midfielder Simpson to centre back in doing the double as far back as '71. We later sold centre forward Kennedy to Liverpool who converted him to midfielder where he won a number of England caps. Pires started out at Metz as a striker, Petit was a defender Wenger converted to midfield, Henry a winger while at one point there was plenty of debate that RvP's natural position wasn't as a striker. In doesn't matter whether Arteta is a natural DM (that would just be someone without the talent to do anything else except defend) it only matters whether he is effective in that role. I rather think that he is more effective than Song was. If you only see players wearing positional labels then you're missing a valuable team building opportunity.
Amos.
Not sure that is a fair comment about the manager, who has had more successes at converting players from their "natural positions" than failures. Henry, Kolo, Kanu, Lauren and recently, Gibbs. I won't read much into the rueful sounding musings of a player who chooses Spurs over Arsenal (really?) and quickly adds that he doesn't mind competition. The timing of this news item is also in poor taste as it is just one more in the Pull Him Down (PHD) repertoire of the media. We shouldn't even make anything of that story. If he is happy at Spurs, who cares?
Naijagunner
Amos - The requirements of the defensive midfielder has changed, but it’s not as if the players who would once have made great defensive midfielders have don’t exist; they simply have to have more strings to their bow - “we have fewer specialists”, as Wenger put it. In the same interview he said that “everyone has the potential to go forward”. While this may be true, my take on this would be a defensive midfielder must be able to contribute to the offensive side of the game - especially in a variation of a 4-3-3 - but not so much by getting forward as by possessing the qualities required to sustain the tempo of offensive moves. A possession-focussed philosophy such as ours sees our centre-backs push up to the half-way line as often as possible, and with the pitch shortened a defensive midfielder must therefore be very competent in possession and have good ball-control. Being able to play those quarter-back-like balls over the top from deep as Fabregas and then Song did so often was an additional bonus that made opposition defences more hesitant to come forward and push us back. Shielding the defence is still the primary concern, but we can’t afford ‘passengers’ in possession. Basically, Song on a leash would pretty much be the ideal.
GoldenArse
Maybe, I should add that in his profile, Jan Vertonghen is recorded to have started out as a defensive midfielder and did play that role for Ajax at times. Indeed, when the rumours were rife about the possibility that Arsene was interested, we all speculated he had to be in the DM role, inter-changeably with Song and Vermaelen. I know that possibility was discussed. If the manager felt he needed cover in that area, then that is what he should go for. My guess is that the interest wasn't as 'concrete' as he has let on.
Naijagunner
I also think that Arteta is effective in his current role and has comfortably been one of our most competent performers there since he joined us. However, for the reasons in the article, I think our team would be more effective without this role altogether.
GoldenArse
My comments above are directed at Wyn's post, by the way. I didn't check to see that Amos pretty much made the same point I made about converting players' original roles for the sake of the team. RvP was another and then there is Song who was a defender.
Naijagunner
It's always possible to speculate on ideal patterns but a team is a blend of complimentary skills. Players are individuals with individual attributes, qualities, strengths and weaknesses. Finding the right blend means matching those individual qualities to produce the most effective unit. What I think we've lacked for sometime now is a player used to playing without the ball which is what much of Arteta's Everton education would have entailed. Reading the play when we don't have the ball is Arteta's (and Gilberto's before him) strength. It's a quality hard to acquire in an Arsenal team though we've compensated with energy (Flamini) in the past. We don't have much of a defensive problem in midfield we do have an attacking one. The idea that it might be resolved by a specialist DM is interesting but the probability is that we still won't have the right blend of skillsets to get our midfield, with the players we have, further up the pitch and to retain the ball while we are there simply by adding a purely defensive player. There's more than one approach so there'll be more than one solution. The formulaic one might seem easier to grasp but it's rarely that simple.
Amos.
GoldenArse, I rather take the view that if we can improve on our creative side and pose enough danger in the opponents' half consistently, we will have little need of a 'specialist' DM, in that sense. It is in the creativity department that the team is lacking; with a little re-organization of tactics, the defence can receive support from collective effort of the team, when required and those occasions can be greatly reduced if we can enhance the offensive threat of the team. Barcelona do not have a specialist and even where they bring in one, his skill set is adapted to their playing style to nullify the impression of a natural DM role is in place. Now, I know we are not Barca, but it is a case in point. I will not have a problem with the club signing on a DM, if only to give Arteta an opportunity to play a more forward role for us, but I do agree Arteta has been effective, barring his lack of pace.
Naijagunner
Amos – As you quite rightly point out there are innumerable ways to correct deficiencies in a football team. Above I have merely outlined an option that I personally view to be the most simple and probable solution. Arteta’s reading of the game is excellent, but, unlike Gilberto, he is playing in a midfield three, two of whom are needed further up the field when we have the ball. Whereas Gilberto played in a team which specialized in counter-attacking football, Arteta spends far more time left alone in midfield and with the pace that most Premiership teams these days have at their disposal, he simply doesn’t have the dynamism to protect the team sufficiently unless our full-backs are discouraged from getting forward.
GoldenArse
Naijagunner - I agree that it is in the creativity department that the team is lacking. What I am arguing is that a more defensively able midfielder would go a long way to solving this. Yes Barcelona don't have such a player, but I think most people would agree that they don't look solid without the ball. They can get away with it 90% of the time because they monopolize possession so heavily. As you say though, we are not Barca, and we don't have the ability to keep possession as they do.
GoldenArse
I understand your theory and you may well be right but I don't think we should be worrying so much about the defensive side of midfield. I see our problem in the number of attempts created and the ability to maintain pressure in the final third. I doubt that that's solved by adding another body in midfield whether a DM or a 4 man midfield. It's really about the type of midfielders we have. Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta, Coquelin and even Diaby are fetchers and carriers. Cazorla is a wondrously gifted attacking midfielder but Rosicky is our only true playmaker. We need more in that department as I see it. The defense will tend to take care of itself when we get the attack right.
Amos.
We've never looked solid without the ball. The invincibles didn't keep more clean sheets than we normally manage. Our problem is that we don't look solid with the ball at present.
Amos.
I suppose in retrospect I should perhaps have formulated this argument in a slightly different order, rather than starting with the need to get the forwards closer to Giroud. Put into incredibly basic terms, my argument is this: Lack of dynamic DM means full-backs can't get forward often > With full-backs not getting forward, our wide forwards maintain width of the side by staying close to the touchline > Giroud and offensive midfielders have fewer options through the middle.
GoldenArse
I don't disagree with that at all. I also think we're a significantly better side with Rosicky, but I also think it's clear that even without him the team should be performing to a far higher standard than has recently been the case.
GoldenArse
Just to clarify, my last post was aimed at your one before last.
GoldenArse
I'm not sure that you can really claim our full backs aren't getting forward enough. Maybe I'm wrong and someone has some stats but whether Gibbs, Sagna, Santos or Jenks I don't see that we've had a problem in that area this season.
Amos.
Again, I agree with you, but the invincibles were largely based around pace and getting men forward quickly, with overlapping full-backs a particularly characteristic feature. Our current side is conceding a similar amount of goals whilst looking cumbersome and stale going forward. Going solely off my impressions of recent games I'd say our full-backs have gone forward enough to send in crosses from fairly deep positions, but this is usually more a matter of simply stepping out of defence to provide an option behind the wide man, rather than getting beyond him and forcing the opposition backwards.
GoldenArse
They tend to make their runs forward late on in moves as an alternative once the opposition is firmly back towards their own penalty area, rather than making early runs forwards and stretching play. Again, I can only go off my impressions.
GoldenArse
We're all bound to have different impressions and it's fun to share them. You may well be right. I guess, and would hope, that all the different scenarios have been and are being considered by the coaching team and explored in training. Balancing the team play with the resources available is often a case of trial and error I imagine. Hopefully we can work it out sooner rather than later.
Amos.
Amen to that
GoldenArse
Agreed with several of your points in the article, GoldenArse. But, I feel there's a dilemma as well in buying a defensive mid. If you assume (rather skeptically) that Diaby can overcome his injuries, I don't think a defensive mid would be necessary, because we've seen this system work with him in the side (as you mention in the article). But playing Diaby would mean one of Arteta, Cazorla or Wilshere would need to make way. I think Cazorla and Wilshere are there to stay. It should be Arteta who makes way (hypothetically, of course). That would mean a more deeper role for Wilshere who will share the defensive responsibilities with Diaby. Diaby would carry the ball forward and stretch the play as well as combine with Wilshere in providing defensive solidity to the team. The same thing he did with Arteta at the start of the season. That would mean putting a muzzle on Jack and I'm not sure how agreeable it would be to Arsene or Jack himself. That is another dilemma to solve. In any case though, we'll have one midfielder handy as well to rotate and provide rest to the other midfielders. In fact, two if you count Rosicky as well. That would negate the necessity for a new defensive mid, subject to the fact that Diaby stays fit, of course
Eboue=GOD
As you say, it would be asking a lot of good fortune to assume Diaby will overcome his injuries any time soon. If and when he does regain fitness, I struggle to see Arsene playing him with Wilshere and Cazorla in the middle of the park. I think it would be asking too much defensively of both Diaby and Wilshere and would end up restricting their game. I’d imagine he’d be used primarily as an alternative to Wilshere as a carrier from deep midfield with Arteta sitting back. At some point I’d like to see us try playing Cazorla on the left with Rosicky central. Not sure Santi’s got the stamina to do a lot of tracking back but I think the pay-off of having that extra invention in the side may be worth it.
GoldenArse
I like the idea of Cazorla on the left, when players are as similar as him an Wilshere they should really be spread apart to create maximum impact.. Ideally we get Nani and Llorente who we've been most frequently linked to. Then go with Gervinho/Chamberlain on the other wing. Cazorla stays in midfield until next season when he's pushed up to left wing. Chamberlain drops back into midfield alongside Wilshere and Arteta. Cazorla, Llorente, Nani, Chamberlain, Wilshere, Arteta
Arsenales f.C
Unless we keep Walcott. Then just Llorente. Because even if the team stays the same we need one more player. If we lose Walcott we'll need two.
Arsenales f.C
Like the idea of Cazorla on the left too. Didn't cross my mind earlier. Used to play on the right for Villareal. In fact, one of the things I DIDN'T like about his play this season is his tendency to drift wide on too many occassions. That leaves no one to pull the strings in the middle. Instead, it could be better to assign him to the left sided position and ask Jack to play the advanced midfield role which he craves and is more effective in. Leaves a little less number of opportunities for the likes of Podolski, Gervinho, Chamberlain and Walcott (or replacement) but it might be worth a try.
Eboue=GOD
If the talks about Diame are anything to go by, I would love to see a naturally suited defensive midfielder acquired, come January. I think our problem lies with scoring goals and not conceding. We have shipped in fewer goals than United up to this time but the Red Devils have scored almost double the amount of goals we have managed to eke out. I believe we need someone to sit in front of that defence and give more confidence to our full backs to move forward. I feel Arteta and Jack play with the handbrakes on for the whole 90 mins. They do not fully commit to attack so that there is no hole created in defence. With Jack and Arteta (yes..i think he is being played outta position), we will have more options in the final third. Gerv raked up a bunch of assists last seasons due to RvP's superb movement in the box and options in the box. I wish wish wish.. that Arsene will play these players where they are best comfortable. If Diaby can't be fixed, let's get someone else who can do that job.
Guyfox
It's the lack of a DM that sees us with a better defensive record this season, so something is working with Arteta as the deepest mid fielder. The players lack confidence, there is little movement around, no one is dragging the defence around. Rosicky does that - simple pass and move, and that itself makes a difference. Creatively, we've been better in the past 2 games so I'm hoping we get better at finishing, which will see our creative work getting better due to the confidence. So, I'm not sure that a DM will solve any issue.
prits
 

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