Category Archives: Arsenal

With chitinous hands I type

This could be a cut up. It could just be notes. It’s probably just the ramblings of a man in the throes of Arsenal fever.

I feel a little like Kurtz. I spend none of my time reading the modern newspapers. I spend almost no time at all on the news of the day and even less time on the news of Arsenal’s day. It is both liberating and imprisoning: I am free to pursue what I want and yet bound by the limits of my own imagination. Unlike Kurtz, I hope that I don’t become corrupted in my little kingdom. Also, the Kurtz analogy is horrible because, well, because the Belgian genocide in the Congo is not something I want to be associated with.

Perhaps I’m more like Gregor. Transformed into a hideous cockroach I sit alone in my room, pounding out letters on my keyboard with my chitinous paws.

I have spent my time in this room living in the past. I have read nearly every interview of Arsène Wenger from his first year at Arsenal. Reading these newspaper clippings from 1997 is fascinating in the way that Gregor was probably in awe at his antennae. How could you not be enthralled by the narrative the British press built up that Arsenal were a dirty team? How could you not smile a bit when they used the word “polyglot” 18 times in the first year? And how could you not stop and wonder for a moment when you read Wenger say:

We are not a dirty side but a fair side. This game is about physical contact. I want positive aggression. If you’re too soft you don’t win many games.

What happened to that Wenger? Was he just protecting Vieira? Doesn’t that seem like too simple an answer? Why was the press in England back then complaining that Arsenal lacked discipline and yet now don’t complain about teams who still regularly top the yellow card list? Why are Arsenal still one of the most red-carded teams in the League? Is it all just a giant conspiracy against Arsene Wenger? A 20 year plan, meted out by dozens of referees, officials, ball boys, managers, and players? Is it just something that happens, that a narrative set in motion 18 years ago gains a certain momentum and can never be stopped?

I also look at the recent history. The games from this year. I am compiling the goals from these matches into a database and then trying to figure out how I’m going to make this visually interesting. Here’s the boring database part…

Timeline 1ScorersCan you tell what I’m doing?

I’m eating paste. That’s what cockroaches eat. Disgusting, isn’t it?

I promise that you will not be bored this week, even if you skip the regular Arsenal news. I will do a Footballistically Speaking tomorrow. Jonathan Blaustein has his match day photo of the month column soon.* There’s a match preview from Naveen. And I could LITERALLY publish 5 things from Les (he’s been working his chitin to the nubs, I tell you).

I have swimming tonight. Hopefully my swim instructor doesn’t notice that I am a giant bug.

Qq

*Hey… if you want to be a part of this, just send your photos to matchdayphotoofthemonth@gmail.com — Jonathan is a funny guy, he’ll make you internet famous!

Liam Brady

Rogues Gallery: Liam Brady

By Les Crang

After Brady had gone Arsenal tried out a string of midfielders, some of them were competent, some not, all of them doomed by the fact they weren’t the person they were trying to replace. – Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby

I was once asked by someone either on twitter or 7amkickoff, who was better, Liam Brady or Dennis Bergkamp? Well? It is impossible to say. As Nick Hornby says above, the loss of Brady in the early 1980’s was almost unfathomable to understand. If there is one thing to say about them that they had in common. Well, winning an FA cup in their penultimate season (1979 for Brady and Bergkamp in 2005) and then the club going 8 and 9 years respectively without winning anything. God, how we missed them in the team.

If Bergkamp and Brady shared something similar, it was both were classic number 10 players (although Brady wore the number 7 for Arsenal at Juventus and Ireland he played number 10). In a blog post John Boyle described the no.10 thus:-

In football, 10 in squad number terms, is the number given to the player who embodies creativity, flamboyance, imagination and inspiration through their play.

The number has become synonymous with the position between midfield and attack, whether it be as a forward dropping deep, or a midfielder pushing on.

Both players were unique yet shared similar qualities: Dennis was probably the more skillful of the two but both could pick a pass through the eye of a needle and relied on footballing intelligence to beat teams rather than speed or power. Both were also the kind players we were willing to pay to see because of their poise and elegance, a void they left behind when they left the club.

For a large majority of fans Liam was just our Director of the Arsenal Youth Academy, who left in the summer of 2014, but for many an older fan, Liam Brady, especially during the mid and late 1970’s was a god.

Liam Brady was from Dublin. A lad that knew his own opinion, even from a young age. An example of this can be seen was when he was at school and he was and picked to play and captain the Ireland schoolboys team. Brady informed the school of this, thinking he would be congratulated, only to be told he would be expelled if he played for Ireland as there was a Gaelic Football game on the same day. Brady had to play for the school. Brady captained Ireland and never returned to school except for his exams. That was as a 15 year old. Brady was  always willing to do what he thought was best for him.

Brady was discovered playing by an Arsenal scout. The Welsh scout no less, Malwyn Roberts, along with Irish scout Bill Parby. Parby had told Roberts in 1970, when he saw 13 year old Brady playing for his local team St.Kevins *:-

“This boy Brady, he’s got a lovely touch, and a left foot that practically talks”, he reported back to the club. Arsenal despatched another scout, Malwyn Roberts from North Wales, to take a look, and he recommended that Brady, “a real little Irish gem.”

Brady had joined as an apprentice in 1970 and by october 1973 Brady had made his debut in the first team in a 1-0 win over Birmingham City, coming on as a substitute for the not so great Jeff Blockley. The Islington Gazette wrote of his debut:-

Brady’s arrival came like a breath of fresh air. Just by his presence he seemed to inject a little extra interest.

Brady was disappointing in his second game, against a good Spurs team, Arsenal losing 2-0:-

But manager Bertie Mee was impressed, telling the press:-

I’m very confident that young Liam Brady will emerge as one of the best midfielders in England over the next few years.

Brady made a further 12 appearances in the season of 1973-4, scoring in the final game of the season against QPR in a 1-1 draw in which substitute Brady ‘equalized from 25 yards after 58 minutes’ said The Times (license required). Ironically, the game is best remembered for the leg break that captain Alan Ball suffered. The Times reported of the incident:-

Ball was in collision with Venables, the Rangers captain. The club doctor said at half-time that Ball had a fractured left fibula and that his leg would be in plaster for eight weeks. Ball, whose leg was put in plaster at Highbury, said: ” It’s a choker. There is no way I can be ready for England’s tour. There is no possibility of me being able to play in a month [for England]. I heard a crack and I knew It had to be bad. Really Terry Venables had nothing to do with it. I tried to nick the ball off him, he took it away, and I just sat on my leg. The break is just above the ankle.’”

Brady, at first was a great admirer of Alan Ball, saying of him:-

‘Bally’ is a phenomenal character. He is a winner by nature and always takes defeat personally. Off the field he is a big-hearted, a great enthusiast about young players and a man who can talk about the game for hours without showing the slightest sign of flagging. on the field he is a born leader and he leads by example…

To say that you learn a lot about football by playing alongside Alan Ball is an understatement. His very presence is an inspiration, especially when you are up against it during a game and looking for leadership.

Brady in later years respected Ball the player more than Ball the man. But more of that later.

Arsenal finished 10th in Brady’s first season and Brady was offered the opportunity to go on an international tour with Eire. Unfortunately, Bertie Mee said no to that and Liam Brady again showed he had  his own mind, when he went and spoke openly to the manager Bertie Mee, informing him he was not happy at being informed on this. Mee apologised. A thing of rarity in many instances for Bertie Mee.

Over the next few years, Brady would come a mainstay in the team and what a team it wasn’t. For those brought up on the glory years of Arsène Wenger, Bertie Mee’s final years in charge (1973-76) were god damn awful. League finishes of 10th, 16th and 17th respectively only mask a malaise at the club that was only saved by the youngsters of Brady, David O’Leary & Frank Stapleton, along with seasoned pros such as goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer and very under rated striker in Brian Kidd amongst others. Even in the cup competitions we were poor, losing to the likes of Tranmere Rovers (at home).

For Brady though Arsenal under Mee had more plotting and intrigue than a bad episode of Eastenders. Mee had said he’d resign at the end of 1975/1976 season. Alan Ball wanted the Arsenal coach, Bobby Campbell to take over. Ball had asked the players to vote on it and send an ultimatum to the board on this. Brady, along with some of the younger players voted against this, saying:-

He [Ball] was trying to maintain the status quo, because a new manager from outside would make drastic changes and cull them [Ball and Terry Mancini]

Ball was later to say of Brady that he had stabbed him in the back. Brady was always his own man.

With the departure of Bertie Mee as manager, he would be replaced by ex-Arsenal captain and previously Spurs manager Terry Neill. Neill saw that the future was no longer Alan Ball, but Liam Brady and was relieved to sell a disruptive player like Ball to Southampton to improve Brady’s development.

With the arrival of Terry Neill, Arsenal were seen as an Irish club, as from Northern Ireland you had Pat Jennings, Pat Rice, Sammy Nelson and plus Terry. From the Republic of Ireland you had John Devine, Liam Brady and Frank Stapleton left much of the press thinking the club was a London Irish club with them either discussing politics or arguing. O’Leary though pointed out in his biography that:-

Frank, Liam and I never really socialised together at all. Frank was teetotal and kept himself to himself, Liam’s best mate at the club was Graham Rix, and I was good pals with Pat Jennings. The ‘London Irish’ thing mattered more I think to outsiders than it did any of us.

Under Terry Neill, Arsenal changed into an improved team. By the end of season Arsenal came a respectable 8th position. By the following season Arsenal had bought in some quality players with experience like Pat Jennings, Alan Hudson and Malcolm MacDonald pushing the team up to 5th in the league. If you wanted to see Brady in full flow watch the video below against Manchester United in April and his goal on 3 minutes 20 seconds:-

The Times wrote of the game:-

There was further Irrefutable proof on Saturday that Terry Neill’s Arsenal side have finally matured. It may be too late for this season, as far as the league championship is concerned, but victory in the FA Cup Final on May 6th barring any miracles in the semi-final round next Saturday [against Orient], should be the first of many riches heaped upon this superbly creative young team over the next few seasons. Although Rice, the captain, gives them discipline and order, the genius is Brady. He was, as he always is, the most influential player on the field on Saturday. In a match bulging with incident which Arsenal won in a canter by 3-1 against Manchester United. Caressing and manipulating the ball with the left foot, Brady displays the same instinctive sureness and control that nature usually reserves only for single limbed people. Coupled with a vision only the great possess, Brady Is the best midfield player in Britain today. It is Arsenal’s strength In this area which makes them so formidable. Hudson, once seen as the player to lead England out of the dark and only a few months ago thought to be a wasted talent, looked, dare one say, a reformed character. He ran-sometimes too far-with unlimited enthusiasm and plotted to devastating effect with Brady. Rix,another beautifully rounded footballer, and Price, with more ability than just an ordinary workhorse, complete the design centre of Arsenal’s game.

Malcolm Macdonald, a great man in his own mind, was flowing in his tributes to Liam, saying of him:-

Liam was a dream to play alongside, because he could deliver a perfect through-ball to you – which is your dream if you’re a striker. Right foot, left foot, and with that brilliant skill he had of making the ball backspin on impact. Like all true greats, he had fantastic balance. He wasn’t blisteringly quick, but he was amazingly smooth to watch. You could give the ball to Liam, and the rest of us could dawdle forward to the opposition penalty area, have a chat, and we knew that the ball would find us. Then there was that shot of his. The deceptive swerve he was able to put on it was something else. I remember one of his goals at home to Leeds at the start of the 1978–79 season, when he made the ball arc into the net. It was beautiful. Like a lot of Irishmen, he was extremely articulate, who operated with his brains as well as his feet. The thing about Liam was that like any top player, he wanted the biggest prizes. And when success doesn’t come, problems arise.

The team had started to look like a thing of beauty. Having beaten Leyton Orient in the Semi-final, Arsenal faced under rated Ipswich Town side. Prior to the game Bobby Robson had said he had the most injuries prior to the final as a ploy. Terry Neill indicated in his biography that he had fallen for it. Unfortunately, both Arsenal’s star players of Liam and Malcolm were carrying injuries and played ineffectual games.

Brady’s decision was compounded with the injury, when he took the place of his friend Graham Rix in the squad. In his biography said that would never occur again, that he would play with an injury in a major game. He was true to his word and in the following years semi-final against Wolves he withdrew from the game with David Price taking his place.

The season of 1978/9 would be the pinnacle of Brady’s Arsenal career. The defining moment in games in the league probably being the 5-0 win against Spurs and Brady’s goal:-

Brady also got his first experience of European football, playing in the UEFA cup, in which he also earned his first red card against Hajduk Split. The season was predominantly a success with Arsenal making another FA cup final against Manchester United. Prior to the game Brady had become the first ‘foreign’ [he was from the Republic of Ireland] player to win the PFA player of the year.

liam-trophy.jpg

The 1979 final would often be called the 3 minute final, as Arsenal had cruised to a 2-0 half time lead with Brady in outstanding form. But with 6 minutes to go, Arsenal withdrew the other outstanding player David Price for Steve Walford. Within 3 minutes United had scored two goals and Arsenal were staring at extra time.

Willie Young said of them equalising and impact on the team:-

There wasn’t an Arsenal player who believed we could still win it in ordinary time – and that includes Liam Brady. He told me that he started the run which ended with Rix getting the ball over for Sundy’s winner, all he was doing was trying to keep the ball in their half. Thank goodness re reacted the way. I’m convinced if we hadn’t scored then, United would have gone on to win the cup.

Brady had won his first medal at Arsenal and been brilliant all season. Unfortunately a few days later, whilst talking to Ken Burgess of the Islington Gazette he said:-

I fancy playing in Europe like Kevin Keegan. Everyone needs a change. If I stay another one or two years, I’d still like to give it a go.

By the following season, with Brady looking to move, the Arsenal fans started to get on Brady’s back. Jon Spurling wrote of the season of 1979/80 and reaction to Brady:-

It began in the seats, actually. Whereas once there had been this adrenaline rush when Liam got the ball, there was a distinct lack of buzz. And if there was a lull in the game, or he started to drift out of it, shouts would go up of “Come on Brady, earn your money”, and, “You haven’t left us yet”. One guy sat near me merely said, “Brady, why don’t you just fuck off now?”

Although the following season Arsenal defeated both Juventus and Liverpool in the European Cup Winners Cup and FA cup respectively, Arsenal were running out of steam, playing almost 70 games that season. In the Semi-final against Juventus, the suspended Marco Tardelli noted:-

Liam Brady and Graham Rix orchestrated everything for Arsenal that night. They knew precisely when to hold on to the ball and when to release it. They seemed almost to have a telepathic understanding of where each other would be. Stapleton had two half-chances after Rix and Brady put him in. My heart was in my mouth, but I thought we were going to survive.

Unfortunately, they were wrong, with Paul Vaessen scoring a dramatic winner:-

Unfortunately, Arsenal would lose the final to Valencia on penalties with Brady and Rix missing and Brady having to console Rix for the miss at the end of the game:-

In the FA cup Arsenal would come up short against West Ham and lose 1-0:-

By June, Brady would leave for Juventus, who had been impressed with his semi-final game against them. He was 24 years old and went for a snip at £650,000 (this was when players like Steve Daley were going to Manchester City for over a £1,000,000) Brady would win two Italian titles in two years at Juventus. On departing Arsenal, Brady was fairly critical of Terry Neill not pushing out the boat on players to improve the squad and win things. He later said of his departure:-

We had a superb backbone of young talent who would be the core for many years at Highbury. But to win the league we need more depth in the squad. Here was a real chance to push on. The club signed John Hollins but after our cup runs there was enough money in the bank to have signed someone like Bryan Robson and absolutely gone for it. We never did. What I wanted was Terry to sit down with me and discuss his vision of the future, but he never did. I felt like I was being taken for granted.

With the departure of Brady, the early 1980’s were really quite dreadful. We too often became fans laughing at a poor team with only perhaps good full back in Kenny Sansom and centre half in David O’Leary, the rest were just often plain dreadful. I therefore go back to the opening. Losing Brady was losing the irreplaceable, just like Bergkamp. In the pantheon of Arsenal great, personally I would say Bergkamp, Alex James and Brady. They just moved in another dimension. You just can not put a value on it. It was such a pity he left. Worse still, when he did return with West Ham in the late 80’s he scored against us. Just our luck in the 1980’s.

Wilshere-Cazorla

Tactics Preview – Sunderland v. Arsenal: defend as a unit

By Naveen Maliakkal

Sunderland’s 4-1-4-1

While Sunderland have attempted to exert greater control on their matches through possession earlier this season their loss to Southampton may help to push them towards a much less ambitious approach in their match against Arsenal. They may play in their same 4-1-4-1 formation, but the system will probably be one more similar to those used by quite a few of Arsenal’s opponents.

Instead of looking to control the game with the ball, Sunderland will look to control the 30 meters in front of their goal. This deep-defending approach will probably involve a physical trio of midfielders. This means that more technically-gifted players like Sebastian Larsson and Jordi Gomez will probably not play in central midfield. Instead, it seems more likely that Lee Clattermole will play the deepest midfield position with Jack Rodwell and Liam Birdcutt not too far ahead of him. The trio in midfield will probably stay tight and rough up Arsenal’s midfielders, hoping to win the ball and setting their side on the counter-attack.

With Steven Fletcher at center forward, Sunderland have a player who has won 5.4 aerial duels per 90 minutes, according to Whoscored.com, with a success rate of about 43%. With their willingness to use Fletcher as an aerial threat, Sunderland have some choices to make out wide. On the right, they could choose to play Sebastian Larsson. While he may not provide the speed of Adam Johnson or the volume of dribbling of William Buckley, he can create chances with his technical ability, both on set-pieces and in open play. Given Arsenal’s propensity to push both fullbacks up to create width in attack¹ Larsson could find himself in plenty of space on Sunderland’s counter-attacks, free to play long diagonal passes to Fletcher or Johnson on the left. In this sense, Sunderland could use Larsson much the way Netherlands used Danny Blind at left-back during the 2014 World Cup, particularly in their demolition of Spain, as a kind of wide playmaker. Combine this potential for devastation in open-play and his ability on set-pieces, and he represents the greatest danger to Arsenal with the ball.

Arsenal Need to Defend Better as a Unit

Some may focus on Arsenal’s defensive issues as problems at the position of holding midfielder and the nature of fullback usage in attack; however, I would like to highlight some of the problems Arsenal have defensively further up the pitch.

Focusing on last week’s debacle against Hull City, we will join the game at around the 15:24 mark, as Hull’s goalkeeper throws the ball out to a teammate. Jack Wilshere pushes up, forcing a pass and then chases after the pass. While ball-chasing is a terrible way to defend² Wilshere does force a pass towards the sideline and then the ball moves to Elmohamady.

Elmohamady moves the ball back to the right center back. From this point on, Arsenal make what seems like quite a few errors. Pausing the play at the 15:34 mark, we see that Arsenal have the makings of a pressing trap with Alexis Sanchez (up top), Jack Wilshere, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in position to collapse on the ball while keeping the players unavailable to the man on the ball, by running at the ball in such a fashion that the passing lane remains closed/rather small (keeping their opponents in their shadows). With the sideline providing another defender, Arsenal should look to pounce on this opportunity to force a turnover.

press damn you

At the 15:37 mark, Sanchez finds himself behind the Hull’s deepest midfielder. If a pass is made into the midfielder, Sanchez can quickly attack the man on the ball. Since Sanchez has that player covered, Wilshere should attack the ball, with Oxlade-Chamberlain joining him, bending his run to keep Elmohamady in his shadow, so to deny the pass to the wingback. Now the man on the ball could play the ball across the field, but Welbeck, playing a free safety role, appears in position to challenge a pass to the far-side center back or the far-side wingback. Such a press, if executed properly, at worst, leads to a back pass to the keeper.

WILSHERE

Not all of the positioning is proper, though. Santi Cazorla has made an odd choice during this passage of play. With Arsenal playing a 4-1-4-1 defensively, Cazorla plays far too deep, looking to stay between Diame and the Arsenal goal. This caution seems like something some want to see from Arsenal. The problem with this particular kind of caution is that it leads to Arsenal having fewer resources to attack the ball. If Cazorla was further up the pitch, as he should be in a 4-1-4-1, Oxlade-Chamberlain and he could go press the ball, leaving Elmohamady and Diame in their shadows. Wilshere could mark Hull’s deepest midfielder, and Sanchez could put himself in position to intercept a pass to the central center back or to the goalkeeper. Unless the center back can dink a ball over Cazorla or Oxlade-Chamberlain without it going out of play or too far, allowing the holding midfielder to make a play on the ball, the center back’s safest play seems to be a pass back to his keeper, allowing Arsenal to push their defensive shape deeper into Hull territory, or to kick it out of play.

Instead, the center back takes a few touches, lets Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain take a bad angle at him, and passes the ball to Elmohamady. Elmohamady evades a Cazorla tackle and plays the ball to Diame. Fortunately for Arsenal, Diame does not realize that Wilshere is behind him, allowing him to make the tackle from behind. Now I may be too harsh on Cazorla for his caution. Given that Mathieu Flamini is playing at holding midfielder, and would rather sit deep than push up, Cazorla may be justified in taking the approach he did, even if it potentially cost Arsenal a good opportunity to win the ball high up the pitch. Maybe if Arsenal had a better holding midfielder, one who would and could effectively push up to make interceptions, like Arteta from the 2012-13 season, Cazorla would have more confidence in defending high up the pitch. However, this reluctance to push forward proved rather costly for Arsenal about one minute later.

Cazorla

Starting at the 16:30 mark, Elmohamady has the ball with quite a bit of space. Cazorla sees this and follows Diame’s run to prevent a pass to Diame. Elmohamady passes it back to the right center back, who has plenty of time and space because Hull went with a back three and Arsenal have only Welbeck up top. Once Elmohamady makes that pass to his center back, Cazorla needs to immediately move back up the pitch into his proper defensive position. In fact, Hull do Cazorla a favor by playing the ball from the RCB, to the deepest midfielder to the central CB, and then back to the RCB. And yet, in all that time, Cazorla has still not made his way back into position, leaving a significant hole in Arsenal’s defense. In fact, you can observe that Jack Wilshere sees the hole in the defense, turns to Cazorla, and wonders what the heck is doing all the way back there.

Wilshere-Cazorla

Cazorla belatedly moves up the pitch, as the ball gets played to a wide open Jake Livermore. That belated action only exacerbates Arsenal’s problems as Livermore’s pass takes Cazorla out of the play, leading to a 2-on-1 between Hatem Ben Arfa + Diame and Flamini.

Diame

Ben Arfa spends way too much time dribbling rather than making the pass to Diame first-time, giving Arsenal a chance to stop this Hull attack, but they cannot; Hull equalize³.

So while Arsenal have yet to develop the relationships in attack to get the most out of this new system4, players seem unable, at this point to get the most out of this system defensively as well. Whether this comes down to coaching, a lack of time given the nature of a pre-season during a World Cup summer, or a lack of intelligence/drive from the players, it certainly frustrates me.

This becomes especially frustrating when you think about the work rate and the proficiency in pressing of both Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck. One of the most depressing sights during an Arsenal match is seeing one of them or both push up the pitch, looking to win the ball, only to see the rest of the team not push up with them, leading to wasted energy. Hopefully, Arsenal can move their style to fit their signings, rather than their signings become jaded about working defensively due to a lack of support.

Arsenal certainly need to eliminate the switching off that has plagued them defensively this season5. And sure, Arsenal could use a technical leader — someone who leads through technique; someone who can control the tempo and flow of a match. Someone who will slow it down when the team gets panicky, speed it up when they become lethargic, play it long when Arsenal need to be more direct, play it short when Arsenal need to show more patience. They need a technical leader rather than lump-kicker because Arsenal have struggled to consistently control matches with their possession for some time.

And ideally, that technical leader would also be the super-intelligent holding midfielder this team needs rather than some physical and powerful athlete who lacks a high-level of intelligence and technique to actually perform the role Arsenal need. However, even the perfect holding midfielder would not be enough if Arsenal do not learn how to defend, and particularly press, as a team.

With matches against Sunderland, Burnley, Anderlecht at home, Arsenal have an opportunity to develop some defensive cohesion against sides that should not cause them too many problems. If they make progress in defending as an XI, then the will set themselves up to cement their place as the third best team in England for this season and build that foundation for competing for major honors in subsequent years. However, if they fail to learn this essential aspect of football, they will likely not have a chance to reach the upper echelon of European football again next year.

@njm1211

¹Maybe Arsenal will finally look to create width with their forward line with the potential return of Theo Walcott in this game or the match against Burnley. I know Barcelona under Guardiola may not look like the best example to follow, given the incredible amount talent and cohesion, but that side tended to play their best when they created width due to the starting positions of the wide players in their front line. Dani Alves would bomb forward from deeper positions and that seemed more effective than parking him high up the pitch. By having him arrive from a deeper position, you increase the uncertainty that defenders on that side of the ball face. By having a player enter into an opponent’s defensive zone from outside of it, he forces the players to reassess the environment around him to make a decision (or you could simply catch him unaware). If the player parks himself high up the pitch, then he becomes a certain threat rather than an uncertain threat. A defender or a group of defenders can better plan and coordinate their actions to account for a certain threat than an uncertain one, making it less effective.
²Steven Gerrard, who may be the epitome of an all-action footballer with little intelligence or awareness of the game around them, showed this to be true on Wednesday. Watch Ronaldo’s first goal against Liverpool, and you will see him chase the ball like a dog playing fetch.
³And yes, Diame did foul Flamini. But how about playing until you hear the whistle rather than anticipating one/complaining? Watching Arsenal switch off when they think they deserve a foul is as terrifying as it is maddening.
4Injuries certainly hurt the ability for Arsenal to form the relationships needed to create an intuitive, reacting-rather-than-thinking style of flowing football that Arsenal have not consistently maintained for a season since…09/10?
5The second goal Arsenal conceded against Hull sees Tom Huddlestone find a pocket a space behind Jack Wilshere, receive the ball, and play it to Elmohamady. Huddlestone makes a run from the half-space up the field, into a wider area. Wilshere oddly decides to tell Nacho Monreal to pick up the run of Huddlestone. Maybe Wilshere thought Monreal was the left-back on the day and not the center back. Calling for Monreal to pick up Huddlestone’s run seems to have posed a dilemma for Monreal. He does not go to pick up Huddlstone nor does he put himself in position to double up on Abel Hernandez. By the time Wilshere realizes that Huddlestone is still his defensive responsibility, it is too late. Huddlestone has space to deliver the cross, and Hernandez heads it home.