Sunday, 6 December 2009

Strikerless Arsenal get back to winning ways. Match report

Criticise Arsene Wenger and see what you get? Tactical innovation.

Arsene Wenger has managed this club since 1996. And in his 500th match he finally sent a team out without a single striker. The formation was 4-6-0. Yet it worked. In a rare bit of half-decent MOTD analysis, they pointed out how Arshavin had not tried to take on the two big Stoke centre-halves but instead played on the half-turn - rather than trying to hold the ball up, he played deeper and then drove forward.

The result: an oustanding display from the diminutive Russian. Just a couple of minutes in, it was only a poor first touch which precluded him from opening the scoring. In a terrific individual performance, he continued in the same vein - he won a penalty (our first since Eduardo-gate) - and after Cesc had cocked that up, he scored himself from open play. A truly excellent 45 minutes.

At half-time, as Kevin Whitcher points out, Arsene did something even more out of the ordinary: he made a substitution. The 45 minute experiment of playing without strikers was over. Off went Tomas Rosicky, on came Carlos Vela.

As it happens, the BBC is now carrying a story about a Rosicky injury, but at the time, it looked like Wenger had taken Rosicky off to give the team some more attacking impetus. This can only be a good thing. Taken in isolation, it means little. But combined with him doing the same thing against Chelsea last week, the evidence is more compelling. If Arsene Wenger can be more pro-active with his substitutions, I have no doubt that this will aid the current Arsenal team.

The second-half became a little nervy - Eboué went off injured - although that's not why it became nervy. Tuncay had one decent chance and at 1-0 there was always the feeling that the opposition could come back into it. This was compounded by the lack of goals the team had scored in recent weeks. Nevertheless, Aaron Ramsay scored in the 80th minute and that was that.

Beating Stoke at home, should be - and indeed was - a formality. There will doubtless be bigger fish to fry but it was important to get the win nonetheless.

Looking at our results so far this season, it is easy to characterise us as flat-track bullies. But that was what Man United did last season - it is no bad thing.

The reality is, that our victory yesterday combined with Chelsea's defeat puts us in the same position we were in last Sunday morning: it also goes to show how hyperbolic the media reaction to just one game was.

Losing to Man City was unimportant - a Carling Cup semi-final would have been a further drain on our resources; if we lose in mid-week to Olympiacos it will not matter as it is a dead game; but next Sunday's game against Liverpool has a lot riding on it.

We are yet to beat a fellow Big Four side in the League this calendar year. Even if it's already December, next Sunday would not be a bad time to start.

Keep the faith,


i'm adam bernstein said...

your point about taking rosicky off for vela doesn't hold water!

1) rosicky was injured, it wasn't a tactical substitution

2) how is anything changing? you say an attacking substitution is some sort of 'tactical innovation', but surely when walcott came on for alex song last week, also at half time, was the same thing?

Adam said...

Yes quite. Twice in a week he has made attacking substitutions at half-time. But before that he was waiting until 65 minutes. Just because something also happened a week ago doesn't stop it being innovative.

Regardless of Rosicky being injured - at the time it was not apparent he was - what was of more interest was that the substitution changed the tactical system.


Great blog with valuable info on Arsenal FC. It's a great club but frankly a bit dissapointed when Wenger doesn't shakes hand with Mark Hughes recently.

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sa said...