Good morning Gunners, today we have a Champions League match against Anderlect and hopefully afterwards Arsene Wenger can celebrate a win and his 65th birthday.
Here’s a weird fact: did you know that you, me, Arseblog, and Sam Allardyce are all Libras? It’s true. That means we are all the same. That’s just a scientific fact, like the fact that eating gluten causes men to grow breasts.
We Libras are the most balanced of all the signs because we are lovers of beauty and art. Again, I think this description fits me, Arseblog, Allardyce, Arsene to a T.
I do often wonder if each of the teams in the League could be described by their zodiac signs if Arsenal would be the Libra team? We are known for beautiful football which transcends art and are all about balancing the books! HA HA guffaw. I don’t know enough about astromythology to write such post though. Is there an asshole sign? That’s definitely Chelscea! Is there a sign that is a bit like Eeyore? That’s gotta be Liverpool. Maybe I’ll spend some time reading about each of the zodiac signs and then I’ll add 8 new signs and do a “Premier League Zodiac” post?¹
Anyway, seriously, I wish Arsene Wenger the happiest of birthdays. I know that, like me, he won’t really celebrate getting older but I still wish him all the best.
And on the occasion of his birth Arsenal get to play Anderlecht. I have to admit that whenever I see the name Anderlecht, I immediately think “why don’t you Anderlecht my balls, Capitan?” Followed by “I can Anderlecht my own balls, thank you very much.”
Yes, it’s true, I’m 44 years old and that is all I can think of when I see the word Anderlecht. Since me, Arseblog, Arsene, and Allardyce are all identical because we are Libras I have no doubt they are also thinking the same thing.
If Wenger is thinking of puns or not, he isn’t letting on. Instead he is publicly saying that the match against Anderlecht will be a real battle. They will make it hard for Arsenal and as this is an away game in Europe, I would have to agree with him.
Still, Anderlecht are considered one of the very worst teams in the Champions League and the easiest in our group. They are only averaging a meager 10 shots per game so far this season in Champions League play and they are allowing a whopping 17 shots against them. That’s a -7 shot difference.
They were a bit unlucky in their first game, dropping all three points to Galatasaray in Turkey in stoppage time. And they were beaten early by an Immobile goal in the 3rd minute at home to Borussia Dortmund. In both matches, however, Anderlecht were not pushovers and especially at home, I agree with my fellow Libra, Wenger, that this will be a hard fought game.
Tactically, Arteta returns to the Arsenal starting lineup. That means that Arsene will look to use Arteta to dictate play in midfield, as a decoy, trying to get the ball up to the 6 attacking midfielders³. And Anderlecht will, if they read Pep Guardiola’s “exclusive” published in the Telegraph the other day press Cazorla or whomever is playing in the Özil role. They may also employ a “high press” which is really only a press against Arteta.
This means that Mertesacker’s long vertical passes will become more important as do any turnovers by the Arsenal forwards in those areas. Watching Arsenal’s goals conceded this season I can say for certain that turnovers in those areas by forward players, because Arsenal lack defensive midfield balance, turn into big chances for the opposition.
Arsenal, for their part are still one of the worst teams in the Champions League in terms of shots per game (8.5) and shots allowed (20.5). That’s a -12 shot difference and continues Arsenal’s rather disappointing last four years of Champions League play. Just in case you had forgotten, Arsenal have been last or near last of all 32 Champions League teams in terms of shots per game over each of the last 4 seasons. This season, Arsenal have leapt up to… uhhh… 29th! In terms of shots taken and are only the second worst team in the Champions League, just behind Maribor who were beaten by Chelscea 6-0 yesterday.
Still, Anderlecht is a team that Arsenal can beat. Arsenal can beat them IF they do like Arsene says and correct the problems with concentration that I pointed out here last week²
..we were close to winning and then a lack of concentration… If we can just concentrate a little bit more defensively.
Problematically, Jack Wilshere thinks that Arsenal’s defensive problems aren’t a problem. Or at least he sought to minimize those problems:
Maybe our biggest or strongest point is going forward but we know we can defend. We have players who can put their foot in. We have players who organise things, in Flamini, and good defensive players.
Flamini is actually part of the problem and has been exposed badly several times in the last two years, often caught out while organizing, as he was against Bayern Munich last season when he was pointing and telling Jack where to go and not paying attention to his own marker. And while I agree that Arsenal have good defensive players (especially Koscielny), Arsenal also have Nacho Monreal who is a terrible defensive player. The “challenge” he put in against Diame in the Hull game, where he weakly stuck out a toe to win the ball rather than tackle the ball and the player, is emblematic of his lack of defensive strength.
Even then, I would say it’s still not the players, it’s more that the whole team switches off. On throw ins, free kicks, corners, and in a variety of ways, this Arsenal team seems to love daydreaming about defense rather than actually playing defense. Especially this season. Or maybe it’s not just this season. Remember the fabled “handbrake?”
Hopefully, they can put that right and help Arsene to celebrate his 65th birthday.
¹Watch this idea show up somewhere miraculously in the next week..
²problems which people have claimed didn’t exist or that I was exaggerating since the sample size was too small.
³Come on, we all know that the Arsenal fullbacks are about as defense minded as a prosecuting attorney — and yes, these two footnotes are out of order, the third footnote is ahead of the second footnote, just like Arsenal’s fullbacks are almost always ahead of the forwards.