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Tactical Change Required to Bring Back Glory Days

The last couple of seasons, seeing our midfield overrun, Wenger changed from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3.  This added more players in central midfield where too often we had lost vital games, but the flip-side meant that the striker was isolated.

For 4-3-3 to work you need at least one of your three central midfielders to get into areas to support the striker.  At Arsenal this has not worked, this season nor for the past couple of seasons.  It is time Wenger to change back to 4-4-1-1 with the player “in the hole” being either a second striker or an attacking midfielder.

For this formation to work we need two work-horses playing in tandem in central midfield, a throw back to the Vieira and Petit partnership.  Song and Wilshere will work ideally in this formation, they both have energy, strength and stamina to get up and down the pitch.  People who say this is a suicide formation, I say look at Manchester City Yaya Toure and Barry or De Jong or Tottenham Parker and Modric (can anyone honestly say h is a tough tackling midfielder?).  It is all about a mindset, it also requires your central defenders to be solid.

Robin van Persie, a great striker that he is, could and will cause havoc if he played just off the main striker.  This will give van Persie greater freedom to maraud where he wishes.  He will arrive late in the penalty area for crosses and the opportunities will be endless for him.  Playing this formation will require the two wide players to track back and be more involved in midfield.  Arsenal’s great sides of recent years had good wide players, Pires, Ljungberg, Overmars and Limpar.  All were masters of the wing, great crosses of the ball and scored goals aplenty.

What Arsenal   lack at the moment is numbers in box.  How many times have we heard commentators state that there is nobody in the box for Arsenal? This is down to the 4-3-3 formation, van Persie is on his own, Ramsey is not in the box, and even if he is, his finishing is woeful.  A 4-4-2 formation should have both strikers, the other winger and one of your central midfielders all in the box, whilst the full-back will also be in support of the attack, whilst the second central midfielder will provide cover.

It makes no sense to play 4-3-3, especially against lower teams like Sunderland, Wolves, Blackburn or Leeds for 80 minutes, then when we haven’t made the breakthrough throw on another striker and start getting the ball into the box and hope 10 minutes of 4-4-2 will achieve what 80 minutes of 4-3-3 have failed to do.

It’s time Wenger woke and smelt the coffee and made a tactical change that will help bring success to the club.

Where Did It All Go Wrong – Arsenal in Decline

Angry, frustrated, disappointed.  Once again Arsenal fans are left let-down, once again we are promised things will change and once again it is groundhog season for Arsenal, and we haven’t even entered the annual departures of the close season.

Where do we start?  It is obvious that things went wrong in the summer with Wenger anticipating that both Nasri and Fabregas will not leave these were the hopes of a man living in a dream land.  The summer also saw not focus on any transfers other than Gervinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain, despite the fact we needed at least one central defender and another striker.

We have seen in recent weeks the paucity of our squad.  We have played Song, Arteta and Ramsey in nearly every game.  Wenger has alternatives, Frimpong, Coquelin, Rosicky and Benayoun, but he does not trust the first two and neither Benayoun nor Rosicky are up to the task.  Creativity is lacking in central midfield and Ramsey appears completely lost playing the attacking midfield role.  We have Wilshere and Diaby coming back from injury, but will that solve the problem?  Wilshere will have an impact, but isn’t it too much to have to rely on this young man, when all around him lack that certain edge required of Arsenal midfielders?

On the wings, Wenger has had three options, Walcott, Gervinho and Arshavin.  Walcott does not realise he needs to play to his strength, and he only has one – speed.  Theo is a speed merchant but is reluctant to run at defenders, to play the ball past the full-back and challenge him for pace.  Walcott’s finishing has been woeful, for someone who wishes to play as a central striker his shooting is pathetic.  What has the coaching staff been working on with Theo in the last 5 years?  Has he really improved since joining Arsenal, and if the answer is no, then why not, has anybody spoken to him about wing play?

Arshavin gave up playing for Arsenal some time ago, the only surprise is that Wenger hasn’t sold him.  What has happened to Arshavin, why does not take players on anymore, where are the little tricks gone or the on-target shots?  The answer lies partly in our formation.  Arshavin plays off the striker, he likes to attack the goal directly not via the wings.  Look at his first half-season, he played behind van Persie or Adebayor and he ran at players go left or right, now he does not have that variation.

Our forwards consist of one person, van Persie, end of story.  Chamakh started of really last season, then stopped, he does not even look like a player who score an open goal, why is a mystery.  One suggestion is that he does not get enough playing time, but when we only play one striker, he never will, so unless we change to 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1, Chamakh will go the same way as Bendtner. Our third striker is a mystery to everyone, Park.  Why did Wenger buy Park so late in the window?  He knew Bendtner was leaving so another striker was always required, why not show an intent and go for Remy, Hunterlaar or Benzema, instead we opt for a Ligue 2 striker Park.  But then Wenger proceeds not to play him and asks the fans to give him a chance, but Wenger does not trust him! Is Park one of these mystery Wenger purchases like Kaba Diawarra or Tomas Danilevicius?  Whatever the reason, I doubt Park will be with next season.

Arsenal have struggled this season, narrow home victories over Stoke, Sunderland, Everton, QPR, draws with Fulham, Wolves and away defeats at Blackburn, Fulham and Swansea just emphasise in which direction we are heading this season.  This Arsenal squad must be the worse squad of players assembled by Wenger in his time at the club.  Wenger has stated that finishing in the top four is more important than winning a trophy, well I doubt we will finish in the top four or win a trophy this season.  The squad needed a major overhaul in the summer, quality players were required and that has not changed.  It is going to be a long and painful second half of the season for Arsenal fans, let’s hope that there is radical change in the summer, but I doubt it.



Summer of Disaster – The Transfer Market

We have a torrid start to the season, let’s not get deluded we have lost 3 games and are now languishing at the bottom of the table.  This is not acceptable for the fans nor is it acceptable for Wenger.  His comments after Saturday clearly show his frustration with what is happening at the moment, more so is his inability to do anything about what is happening.

Our problems have been rumbling under the surface for some time now, we have year after year papered over the cracks, but fundamentally we have been on the downward slide ever since we move to the Emirates. We have sold or lost good players and failed to replace these players, no team can lose the likes of Bergkamp, Henry, Pires, Vieirra, Cole, Campbell and Ljungberg and expect to maintain the high standards set by that team.  Recently we have lost Adebayor, Fabregas, Toure and Nasri and yet again the replacements have not been of the same standard.  As a team we have been getting weaker and weaker every season and this season all of our chickens have come home to roost.

We must ask ourselves how this has happened.  Think back to when we talking about moving to a new stadium, the rationale was that with the increased income streams we will be able to compete with the best teams in Europe.  The reality is that over the last six years we have spent £130M on players and received £185M in sales.  Whilst spending does not always equal success or mean attracting top players, which top stars have we bought in the last 6 years?

There are fundamental problems at the club in terms of attracting players or even in securing our main targets.  This summer was a classic case.  The club identified our weaknesses and decided upon targets to rectify these problems.  What actually happened was a farce.

Every Arsenal fan knew that Fabregas would leave once Barcelona showed any interest in him, we also knew that if Nasri had not signed a new contract by the end of June, then the club had to sell him, that is everyone except Arsene Wenger, who decided this was his summer of imitating an ostrich, stick his head in the sand and everything will be ok.

In Malaysia Wenger stated, “Imagine the worst situation – we lose Fabregas and Nasri – you cannot convince people you are ambitious after that. I believe for us it is important that the message we give out – for example you see about Fabregas leaving, Nasri leaving – if you give that message out you cannot pretend you are a big club. Because a big club first of all holds onto its big players and gives a message out to all the other big clubs that they just cannot come in and take [players] away from you.”

This statement was made on 11 July, within 6 weeks both players had left and by Wenger’s own admission we were not long a big club.

We spent the whole of the summer trying to negotiate the transfer out of two of our top stars and we neglected any replacements, why? Surely Wenger had a plan to cover the sales of Fabregas and Nasri?  Gervinho was not a replacement for either player.

The same day Wenger stated that Arsenal had no need to recruit a left-back following Clichy’s move to Manchester City. “The plan for left back is that we have Kieran Gibbs, Armand Traore and Thomas Vermaelen can play there too. So we have what we need,” said Wenger.

Everyone who had seen Traore’s development at Arsenal over the years realised early on that he was never going to be top left-back.  Yet Arsene thought otherwise.  In the same context  was it sensible to move our best centre back to left-back?

Having decided that we did not need to recruit replacements for Nasri, Fabregas or Clichy, our transfer policy for the summer started to blow up in our face.

Linked with Ricardo Alvarez we failed to land him for a reported difference of £1.7M.  We then moved on to Juan Mata, but we failed to make a bid for him before 31 July, so his fee went from £13M to £23M.  Centre backs were targeted, with Arsenal prepared to spend £13M on Jagielka yet not prepared to spend more than £10M on Cahill.  Wenger then realised, having stated this was the case all summer, than Bendtner was going to leave in the summer, so a striker became a priority.

Following total humiliation at Old Trafford, where not only were our defensive frailties exposed, but also the lack of players in our squad became apparent when you saw the bench.  Arsene or the board forcing Arsene, embarked upon a supermarket sweep style spending spree.  We recruited a left-back, Andre Santos, centre-back Per Mertesacker, striker Ju-Young Park and two midfielders, Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun. Whislt it was good to see the club address the issues of defensive frailties, in-experience and sheer numbers, what Arsenal fans want to know and have a right to know is why weren’t these players bought in July, given a proper pre-season with the club and bedded in to the Arsenal way before the season started.

The further exacerbate the problem we decide to get Ryo Miyaichi an special talent work permit a player who has had only a handful of professional games instead of utilising this option for Joel Campbell a striker of greater promise and potential than Miyaichi.

This calamitous transfer window has led to this disastrous start to the season, the players did not know who was coming in and who was staying.  We started our pre-season with one set of players and all of sudden five more are brought in once the season has started.  This has been a completely disjointed transfer window and someone needs to explain how we got to this stage, when all the fans knew who was going and where we needed to strengthen.

The transfer disaster is one reason why we are where we are.


Transfer Deadline Day – Bendtner Out – Which Midfielders Will We Buy

Transfer deadline day looms and Arsenal are still in the market for midfielders, this is not idle blog gossip but Arsene Wenger stated we are short of players in this area.  This became self-evident in recent games were the creativity has been left to Rosicky and his best days are behind him.

Today is a day we will all go mad in following rumours and tweets.

MVila was the player we were linked with and apparently made a £22M bid for the France international, but Rennes want £30M. I doubt Wenger will stretch to £30M, but Wenger could try and push this one through, though M’Vila is more of a defensive player.

Until the window is closed the Eden Hazard to Arsenal bandwagon keeps rolling on, though Lille are reluctant to sell to Arsenal following the Park transfer, the possible arrival or Joe Cole on loan and also Arsenal could offer Chamakh as part of the deal.  Though it is being reported in La Voix du Nord that Liverpool have first refusal on Hazard for 2012 due to the possible Cole deal.

Further afield, Italy in particular, Arsenal have been linked with Montolivio and Vargas from Fiorentina.  Could Wenger go for a double Italian scoop?

Closer to home Wenger has made inquiries about Everton duo Arteta and Felaini and also Chelsea duo Benayoun and Malouda.

My preference will be for the Everton duo, but in dealing with English clubs the transfer fees will be inflated, but the positive is that we know what they can do in England with no bedding process required.

Do not discount a last minute move for either Gary Cahill or Chris Samba.

On exit front Bendtner, the self-confessed best striker in the world, is in talks with Stoke City.  Manual Almunia has disappeared off the radar; this is daunting as he could appear in an Arsenal shirt in the forthcoming months. Two other Arsenal players that could have gone in this window, but arte likely to stay as we are short of players are Arshavin and Rosicky.

Most worrying is Henri Lansbury.  Wenger went on record to say he will give him a chance, but Lansbury’s appearances this season were against Liverpool when we were down to 10 men and a cameo appearance at the Old Trafford Massacre.  Not really the chance the Lansbury deserves.  If Wenger cashes in on Lansbury, Arsenal FC should close down its Academy.  This is one of the best players to come out of the Academy and he has been given zero opportunity by Arsene, whilst the likes of Rosicky and Arshavin stroll around the pitch with minimal effort.

What amazes me is  that deals can be concluded in hours at this time of the season, players jet in from everywhere to undertake medicals in a matter of hours, whilst during the rest of the window it could, if you are an Arsenal fan, take weeks for transfers to be concluded.