Arsenal: Six Deep Flaws Exposed By Manchester United
Psychological problems need to be addressed immediately...
Any team coming off the back of a dreadful showing like Arsenal’s at Swansea last week should want to come out fighting to prove a few people wrong, but that’s exactly what Arsenal didn’t do in the first half against Manchester United yesterday. Instead of pressing them back, putting them under pressure and moving the ball quickly, they sat deep, invited Nani and Valencia to run at them and dallied in possession. There was no change from last week at all.
It’s concerning that this hasn’t been addressed. You must wonder what advice is being given before the players enter the field when a first half performance of such sluggishness is produced. The drive has completely disappeared from midfield, the creative players are woefully short on confidence, and no one wants to take charge of the situation. Expect the old adage of Arsenal lacking leadership to rear itself again soon.
...and so do the technical ones
Aaron Ramsey has been overused this season, and it’s starting to show. His eye for a through ball, like the superb pass he slid through for Gervinho which led to Robin van Persie’s first at Stamford Bridge in October, has deserted him, and with no Mikel Arteta either, there’s a no one to pick a pass from the centre of the pitch. Tomas Rosicky was selected as the best of a bad bunch of replacements for the Spaniard, but despite working reasonably hard, he failed to make an impact and looks to be counting down the days until he can leave.
With Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin effectively making Arsenal’s attacks a man light with their wastefulness, there is a desperate lack of a regular and reliable creator of chances. That Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked most likely to come up with the unexpected is a positive for his development, but worrying for the rest of the team.
The development of young talent goes stagnant too quickly
Hope that Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott will become the world-class players Gooners want them to slip away with every disappointing performance. There is ground for concern that they could go the same way as (deep breath) Jeremie Aliadiere, Quincy Owusu Abeyie, Nicklas Bendtner, Arturo Lupoli, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Denilson, David Bentley, Justin Hoyte, Armand Traore, Fran Merida, Carlos Vela and any other player that’s excited in the Carling Cup and reserves but never become a top level first team regular.
“So and so is going to be great in a few years,” and “have you seen the YouTube videos of this player,” are sentiments that have been echoed regularly in Arsenal circles since the Carling Cup has been used to blood youngsters, but for all the developed players, the substance has lacked. There have been shining lights: Cesc Fabregas is legitimately a player developed at Arsenal and Gael Clichy, Jack Wilshere and Wojciech Szcsesny have all served/are serving the club well. Here’s to hoping Walcott and Ramsey find their feet, and that Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin and Frimpong don’t go the same way as many before them.
There is a lack of tactical flexibility
Arsenal are stuck in a tactical rut created by Wenger’s stubbornness. On Sunday, United looked initially to be lining up 4-4-1-1, with Welbeck up front and Rooney just behind. Carrick and Giggs anchored the midfield and Nani and Valencia were a constant threat on the flanks. But Rooney was able to drop deep, at times making a 4-3-2-1 (with Nani and Valencia as the two), to frustrate Arsenal and set United up for counter attacks. Earlier in the day Spurs demonstrated how to play quickly and directly, with first two out-and-out wingers, then two inverted wingers, while Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric alternated as the main support for Jermain Defoe. Meanwhile, City had enough fluidity in their immensely talented front four to cause problems at the other end.
The most insightful switch Wenger could devise was to occasionally switch Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain, then chuck Park Chu-Young on with ten minutes left. Since Wenger switched from 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1, forced partly by the departure of Dennis Bergkamp, there’s been no looking back. Whether he doesn’t want to be proved wrong or whether he genuinely believes the current shape is the best way forward is unknown. Either way, it’s not helping when the game needs to be changed, or the opposition has sussed out a method of containment. And that’s happening far too often at the moment.
Robin van Persie’s perplexed reaction after the Oxlade-Chamberlain change summed up how they must be feeling towards their manager.
The Emirates is as divided as it’s ever been
When Oxlade-Chamberlain was replaced by Andrei Arshavin in the 74th minute, a ripple of “you don’t know what you’re doing” was aimed at Arsene Wenger. It wasn’t deafening and wasn’t the majority, but it was telling. Public opinion of Wenger is at its lowest point since the 8-2 defeat to United back in August, but at the time, leeway was given because the transfer window had yet to be closed and Arsenal were decimated by injuries. Now, the repetitive excuses and the refusal to blame his players is wearing so thin, that even staunch pro-Wengerites are weary. I should know, I’m one of them.
And if that’s the fans, what about the players? Robin van Persie’s perplexed reaction after the Oxlade-Chamberlain change summed up how they must be feeling towards their manager. Defiantly, Wenger defended the decision, saying a man of his experience didn’t have to justify everything he did. Van Persie, and the fans, might have a different view.
A draw at home to Man United would have felt like a victory
Should it be sad or expected that it’s come to this? With ten minutes to go I was praying that Arsenal could hold on for a draw, but Welbeck struck and it wasn’t to be. I felt as a fan of any team would in the same situation. A draw would have felt like we’d p*ssed off United, as well as gained a point, but considering they’re challenging for the title and we’re struggling for fourth, makes me feel a bit pathetic.
But Man United should beat Arsenal every time shouldn’t they? They have the wealth, the fan base, are apparently the biggest club in the world, and can price Arsenal out of a transfer whenever they like. The thing is, Arsenal fans didn’t used to need to make these excuses.
You can follow Joe Tyler on twitter @joejtyler
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