Saturday, February 13, 2010

I love Arsenal, but...

"You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose."

- Hillary Clinton, before she was beaten in a campaign by poetry

For a couple of weeks, I've been arguing with the good folk over at Untold Arsenal about their ultra-optimistic, long term view of Arsenal's rosy bright future. They're speaking in metaphors, alluding to Arsenal as a cathedral built to last a 100 years. It's irritating because they ignore what's in front of them.

There are things that Arsenal can do, right now, to improve the team and to enhance their chances of success. They can start pressing higher up the pitch. They can sort out their set pieces. They can drill their full-backs to defend better. They can work out a system where their DM covers their position and stop the opposition from ripping our lines apart like wet toilet paper.

But will it happen? It hasn't happened in 5 years, and I haven't seen much evidence of it happening right now. This is what irritates me. It's one thing for a team to trying its hardest on a limited budget. It's another thing for that team to purposefully ignore their weaknesses because it doesn't fit into their philosophy of football.

I believe Wenger is guilty of that. I love Wenger for what he has done for the club, but I think he's lost his way if he thinks he can win the league with our current approach. We've made the same mistakes for 5 years now, and apart from the odd win against the odds, we're not learning.

Cesc Fabregas said about our team:

"As a team, we need to be stronger. We can't hide behind people saying we are too young or we have injuries. We just have to compete. People say you must learn from your mistakes, but you learn how to play football when you are 12, 13, 14, 15. You don't learn these things when you are 25.

"That is why I do not believe age is an excuse.

"In the past few years, we have been doing very well, but whenever it comes to important moments, maybe we haven't been up where we need to be. We have always tried to play our football, but the goals we have conceded lately have come from defensive mistakes. We are a team, so we all take responsibility for it together. We can keep playing the same style of football, but it is the mentality that will determine whether you win trophies or not. We need an extra edge in these big games."

I completely agree with Cesc on that point. We're committing school-boy errors in defence. We're weak in the big games. Wenger talks about this side needing to take the handbrake off during the big games, but I'd rather they kept the handbrake on and stop concede those stupid goals. This isn't stuff that you learn when you're playing professional football. It's stuff you learn when you're a kid. It's just that when you're in an environment like London Colney, defensive skills are neglected and players lose their way.

And I don't think fans that blindly follow the Arsenal are helping. A supporter who takes everything at face value and who doesn't use their critical minds is a muppet. A supporter who sees the weaknesses, but encourages a team to continuing on the wrong path is an enabler.

Clichy's been on the Arsenal website to say that:

"When I am on the pitch and I hear those songs and nothing can be better than that. So I really want to thank the fans... For the fans it is a way of talking to the players.... it's a way for them to tell us that they appreciate the work we are doing and the fact that they love us as a player so it's good and we play for them and they sing for us."

I wish there was a song that encouraged him to mark his winger and not to bolt upfield and get caught out positionally. Also to learn to cross properly so we can take full advantage of him forays upfield. Could someone make up a song that says that? I think "Clichy" rhymes with "positionally" if it helps....


V said...

You remember when we were winning 3-0 against spurs? Arsene was screaming, he wanted the team to get the clean sheet. And even when we lost to Chelsea he pointed our that we made bad mistakes in defence. For me it isn't an issue about the team not knowing how to defend. It is more to do with desire and seeing the broader picture - i.e. 90 mins game.

An invincible-ish side lost 4-2 at home to utd because they were way too fired up and tried to blast Utd with goals. We even took the lead two times I think that game.

Going 1-0 down to Chelsea or Utd is not a crime. But not getting your head together to defend an inevitable counter attack for me is.

We can be too gung ho at times..Some say it is 4-3-3, others 4-1-4-1 and etc etc. But Arsene has always played 2 defensive minded players in midfield. Remember the days of Grimaldi? But like you pointed out in your other post, these kind of players knew their limitations and that meant you never saw grimaldi etc near the opposition's penalty box in free play like Song was before Chelsea scored thier 2nd goal. It isn't about tactics, just got to take more responsiblity.

Against Liverpool, there was more desire defensively. It didn't look pretty. My friend commented on how awesome Gallas was clearing everything. Trouble was, it was no unlike us...he kept kicking them out but they kept coming back in.

If our defence and midfield was that bad, we wouldn't be 3rd in the league.

weg said...

That's true, V. I remember earlier in the season when we were pressing the opposition more. It made the 4-3-3 much more effective, allowed more turn-over got us more goals. But the problem with the 4-3-3 is that we get over0run with just one defensive midfielder. Greater pressing up the pitch is needed, but I also think defense isn't as valued as much as it should be, like Wenger believes it'll just take care of itself.

The way to defeat this Arsenal is pretty clear - to keep in tight and narrow, wait for us to over-commit, and then attack us down the flanks. A lot of the time, it's the fault of the full-back for getting too far forward, or the winger for not marking