The big problem with this Arsenal side is not a lack of talent - there is consummate quality throughout the side. The problem with this Arsenal side, is a lack of confidence. The reasons for this are unclear. I would probably argue that it's because they don't feel they have the freedom to express themselves at the moment. The reason for this? - A series of kickings they've received in the North-West.
This season is reminding me of the autumn of 2005. That Arsenal side was bereft of confidence, and was struggling. We had lost 6 times by mid-December, and had also had a whole host of lucky draws - we were sitting in mid-table, with it looking unlikely that we would qualify for the Champions League again. Then came the match which perhaps signified the birth of Arsene Wenger's 'third team'.
February 2006. Arsenal visited the Santiago Bernabeu having been written off by the media - the result was supposed to be a foregone conclusion. Instead, Wenger's new team came of age that day, and preceded to hit good form: we improbably pulled ourselves up from mid-table to the Champions League, and it was in that very competition that we reached the final. The point of all this? Certainly in part, it is because I want to highlight all is not lost. However, after this crisis ended, another began.
I am referring to the beginning of season 06-07, where 2 points from 9, was portrayed by the media as the end of Arsenal's title challenge. Of course, we then went to The Theatre of Shit and won, and suddenly, we could win the league again.
But what was in common between both Old Trafford and the Bernabeu: 4-5-1. And then again it was employed with great success against Manure at The Grove, just 10 days ago. Evidently, it has been a successful formation for us.
So when Myles Palmer writes,
Why play 4-5-1 at home to Aston Villa?
Bendtner has been feeble in the last three games but he should not be played up front on his own, which does him no favours. He's not fast, so he had a nightmare and was booed off the field when he was substituted. That's not developing young players. That's humiliating young players.
Did he play 4-5-1 because RVP is suspended and Eduardo isn't ready and Ade can't do 90 minutes yet? Or did he play 4-5-1 because young Denilson isn't Flamini or Gilberto, so they needed an extra man in midfield?
If you play 4-5-1, you pass the ball sideways a lot and if you play 4-5-1 with a slow striker you pass it sideways for the whole 90 minutes. So they passed it sideways all day long and had 68% possession and lost 2-0.
- He is wrong. The reason why Wenger plays 4-5-1 at home is because he's doing what people are telling him to do - he's sticking with experience. It really is like he'd damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't. I really think the critics can't have their cake and eat it. He played five in midfield, because he wasn't going to give Jay Simpson or Vela their first Premiership start in what was universally acknowledged as an important game.
He played 4-5-1 because in theory what it's supposed to do is have two runners creating space on either flank, and 3 men in the center, overpowering the midfield. And I for one, will not criticise that - instead, I will praise it as being tactically astute. It failing once did not mean it was the wrong course of action. It may have lost the battle, but it could end up winning the war.
And that is why Myles Palmer is a phlegm-inducing rodent, because when Wenger plays 4-5-1 at home another time and we win, he will write of a tactical masterstroke - and I object to people having it both ways.
And then there is the other point that Myles Palmer makes - that Arsene Wenger has refused to buy experienced players, and that he only wants to play kids.
Undoubtedly there is some truth in this - many fans would like to see more experienced players signed. But lets try and understand why Arsene hasn't - Tomas Rosicky is 28, Eduardo is now 25 years old. These aren't youngsters. These are players in the prime of their career. These last few years we have been unbelievably unlucky with injuries. I remember when Sebastian Larrson a right winger, was playing left-back in 2006. Indeed, apparently Theo has just been ruled out for 3 months according to 5live - yet, when have the powers that be every acknowledged this?
The reason for the lack of experience is that it's on the books, just not on the field. That, one cannot possibly blame Arsene Wenger for. I personally think that if he didn't sign a player, it wasn't because of financial prudence, but rather because that player was unavailable - I went into this in great detail, on Sunday. If Wenger could get his first-choice team out on the field, it would be what he wants it to be - youthful, but with clear experience. Clichy and Fabregas may be young, but they have several seasons experience under their belts. The problem is not a lack of talent in the squad - it is a lack of confidence, and that cannot be bought with new players - the players gain it through their results. I believe they can still do that this year, in the league.