Category Archives: Arsenal

Arsenal draw Monaco, Wenger smokes, there is no news this week

Uhhhhnnn…

I slept in because I stayed up too late last night making up rap names and deciding if dogs can eat raisin bran and grape nuts. The answers to these mysteries are: Bigelow T (catchphrase, “you’ve been sacked by Bigelow T”), no, and yes. I also asked a dog if he wanted to go to Seaworld — you know, in that way people do with a dog where they are like “you wanna go outside? Huh? HUH? Go outside???” Except sub in “Seaworld.”

In Arsenal world, Arsenal drew Monaco which is weird and proof that these drawing are rigged because everyone knows we were supposed to play Bayern Munich. Immediately after the news was announced that Arsenal got Monaco, a Vine of Arsene Wenger smoking while at Monaco went Vineal.

I know Wenger will be happy to go back to Monaco and I know that Monaco represents a good chance for Arsenal to get through to the next round where they will THEN face Bayern Munich!

Other than discussing the CL draw, you do realize that there will be no news this week, right? That all news will be made up. That or it will be quotes from players and their agents about how they want to come to Arsenal. In that case, I will publish a few pieces from Les this week and I’m hoping one from Naveen. 

Until then, I’m going to find a couch at work and catch some zzzzzz.

Qq

Man at the match; Chary: Green shoots of Arsenal recovery ?

A pair of braces from a rejuvenated Giroud and a resurgent Cazorla eased the pressure on a team seeking to erase the memory of the Stoke defeat with a comfortable win against a Newcastle side that traditionally don’t travel well.

Long distance Toon army

Long distance Toon army

On the first wintry day of the season a Christmas shopping delayed departure from home to the match meant there was no time for a pre match alcoholic relaxant and given our previous League result it seemed some beer would have been necessary.

It would be fair to say most Arsenal supporters looked at this fixture in the light of Newcastle’s form with a fair degree of trepidation given they last week banished the pathetically premature talk of Maureen-Yo’s Invincibles (his 14′ers compared to “THE” 49′ers) with a win over the diving specialists of the Premier League.

Under The Invincibles banner

Under The Invincibles banner

That trepidation may have increased with the news that the recently returned from injury Debuchy would be forced to play (right) back due to Kozzers injury and Chambers’ suspension.

In the North Bank lower there was talk of protests that had not materialised and word of “Wenger out” placards being confiscated however there was no definite sense of unease as the game kicked off.

From the off Newcastle tried to match Arsenal’s high energy start to the game and this was to be applauded. Too many times at Ashburton Grove we see away teams with 10 men behind the ball and looking to frustrate, however what was apparent that their midfield pressing was being let down by the below par performance from Newcastle’s front line.

The first chance of the match came to us with a header (I couldn’t see who it was from) off the cross bar and this was to set the tone for the game.

Sadly the next incident was a brutal one as I saw a scuffle for the ball in the midfield end up with high kicking legs and our super Chilean collapsing holding his stomach. It was hard for me to see how much contact there was, but the word around me was it should have been a red card for whoever the miscreant was.

The Newcastle number 28, all gangly legs and comedic/uncoordinated running style, failed to connect with many through balls and one of his fresh air swipes at the ball caused much mirth around me in the block behind the North Bank goal.

While the Arsenal were attacking the Clock end in the first half, at the other end of the ground from me, even my Mr Magoo standard eyesight enabled me to see that Santi Cazorla was engineering plenty of forward passes and creating time and space for Alexis and Welbeck to run onto.

Another aspect of the midfield play was the The Ox’s rambunctious ability to fend off the opposition midfielders attempts to push him off the ball, to this end Colback stood out(not just for his bright ginger hair) as having the most energy in the midfield battle ground.

Newcastle’s open/attacking strategy was bound to play into the Arsenal’s hands when another driving Alexis run to the bye line let him loft in a cross which Olly met with a thumping “towering” header.

At last, a goal from a cross, something we’ve needed to give our attack variety.

With that goal the tension seemed to fall away and even a goal mouth scramble, when Chesney had to make a double save following a Newcastle free kick, couldn’t reduce the positive feeling.

Olly song then rang out and soon after it seemed Welbeck had scored but the celebration was cut short.

Half time saw a pitchside interview with our first super swede, Anders Limpar, with replays of some of his best goals on the big screens. By this time the toes of Arsenla supporters must have started to numb with the plunging tempartures.

The second half saw no change in the away teams open, attacking approach and wave after wave of Arsenal attacks orchestrated by Santi and the attacking charges usually being led by Alexis (and occasionally Welbeck).

Free kick

Free kick

The performance of Bellerin was appreciated, not just for his help in setting up, and joining in, attacks but his tenacious defensive tackling and composure when pressurised, whenever I have seen him play live he has not looked out of place.

Another attack saw Santi weave his way into the penalty area then, stumbling, lift the ball over the diving rookie Newcastle keeper to make it 2 nil.

Santi scores

Santi scores

No sooner had the crowd started relaxing completely then a cross from our right saw Olly flick in the third goal and again his song was sang – how we missed the big Frenchman’s presence up top.

A feature of the match, many fouls on us being unpunished and first infractions by us leading to booklings, manifest itself with a soft free kick being awarded against us.

A groan from the home support told me Newcastle had pulled a goal back yet a 3-1 lead looked safe given the lack of quality in the away forwards.

This didn’t change the tempo or direction of the game and Arsenal carried on attacking with Welbeck in particular not letting the Newcastle keeper nor defence settle with the ball that long.

Santi orchestrating

Santi orchestrating

It was Welbeck’s pressing that let him run onto a pass that set him up for a driving surge, in my direction, to the goal where I could see the clumsy barge that led to the most stone wall of stone wall penalties you will ever see.

Being just five rows from the front I was hoping to have a good view of the penalty and as I saw Santi, like in the FA Cup semi final, wait to take the penalty, but as soon as he started his run all I could see was a sea of raised arms. Luckily the cheer told me we had four and we were mirroring Tuesday’s score line.

Make that two

Make that two

At this point the same voices around me who were critical of the manager pre match were singing:

“One Arsene Wenger”

In the context of what went before I was unable to process this turn of events or make sense of it.

In any case a happy home crowd cheered at the final whistle and Flamini joined the BFG as one of the few players who thanked the crowd before disappearing off down the players tunnel.

The BFG

The BFG

Two wins after the soul destroying defeat in middle Earth at the previous weekend was all that the team could do and one hopes this means the teams form is on the up, or at the very least the fragile recovery is starting.

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

afc_v_NUFC

Naveen’s tactics column: Arsenal v. Newcastle

By Naveen Maliakkal

Newcastle registered an impressive victory over Chelsea in their last English Premier League fixture, and they could look to replicate such a performance this Saturday.

During most of that match, they did not press high up the pitch, nor focus on defending close to their own goal. Instead, they focused on occupying the first 20-25 meters after the half-way line. With an inability to cover a large amount of offside space, high pressing would have represented a David strategy with too high a variance in the outcome. At the same time, deep defending leads to a team conceding space closer to the goal. Without excellent control of space out of possession, this can lead to conceding too many shots on goal.

For a Newcastle side down to their backup GKs, conceding so many shots from deep position would seem unwise. Also, without a strong ability to compete in the air, deep defending sides run the risk of conceding goals off crosses and set-pieces close  to their goal. With the likes of Diego Costa, John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, and Gary Cahill, Chelsea have an ability to dominate in the air like no other Premier League side, particularly on set-pieces.

In addition to the problems they faced with deeper defending, such a low defensive block also requires a greater distance to travel in order to reach the opponent’s goal. So while deeper defending has the potential to suck in the opposition’s shape, such that, when possession is lost, there is a greater misallocation of defensive resources, allowing for easier exploitation of desirable spaces, the longer time it takes to exploit the spaces that leads to the highest expectation of goals allows the team out of possession more time to reallocate their resources, so to protect those truly dangerous positions.So with their 4-4-1-1 defensive structure, in a kind of mid-block set-up, they set up their attacking quartet so to quickly take advantage of the space the Chelsea lacked control over due to their attacking shape.

For this reason, starting the quicker Ayoze Perez up top over Papiss Cisse made sense for Newcastle. Not only could he provide an outlet for long ball and bring Newcastle’s other attackers into play on their counters, but he could better exploit the offside space that Chelsea conceded in possession. However, with the likes of Shola Amoebi on one flank, looking to provide long passes or crosses from wide areas, and Remy Cabella on the other, looking to play the role of dribbler and creator, the inability for the front three to interact on the counter meant that Newcastle could not create enough from their opportunities. For this reason, it makes sense that the introduction of Papiss Cisse helped Newcastle in attack. Not only did they bring on a player who had a greater preference for exploiting goal-scoring spaces, but they also narrowed their attacking shape on the counter. This allows for greater interaction among the front three, allowing them to more effectively dynamically specialize and more effectively exploit space in possession. This greater control in their counters allowed them to better incorporate the runs of Moussa Sissoko and Jack Colback.

With Sissoko suspended for this match, Arsenal do catch a break, as Newcastle will lack their best threat on the counter attack from deeper in midfield. However, with the number of injuries Arsenal have at the back, particularly in midfield and at the back, which may lead to a back line of Bellerin-Debuchy-Metresacker-Gibbs, with Mertesacker in his less than ideal position of left center back, Arsenal face a real risk of being cut apart on the counter attack. While Newcastle do attack more down wide areas that any English Premier League side, with only 24% of their attacks coming down the center of the pitch, the lowest percentage in the English Premier League, if they picked up on the need for a more narrow shape in their attacks, they could create quite a few chances.

Sissoko’s suspension also poses a question as to how Newcastle will look to put pressure on Arsenal’s midfield. With John Obi Mikel instead of Nemanja Matic, Newcastle could allocate more resources towards reducing Cesc Fabregas’ on-ball potency, as Mikel’s sideways passing did not pose much of a threat. With Mathieu Flamini playing in the holding role, Newcastle may focus their efforts on stopping the likes of Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and look to bully Santi Cazorla off the ball. However, with Perez possibly having to play a central role behind the Cisse, he will have a responsibility to drop into midfield to help stifle Arsenal in central areas. Whether he can do the job as well as Sissoko could is an open question going into the match. Also, having to expend energy defensively and drop into spaces farther away from Arsenal’s goal may limit his ability to serve as the conduit, better allowing Newcastle’s attackers to interact. However, if Arsenal show the lack of cohesion they showed against Stoke City, out of possession, then Newcastle should not find it too difficult to create chances.

Back to Basics: Let’s Get on the Same Page

Against a side like Stoke with their aerial ability, their desire to cross the ball, and with a back line composed of a right-back who does not provide much value in the air in Hector Bellerin and a center back playing on the “wrong” side, inviting danger around one’s penalty box, as Arsenal did last season, seems like a less than ideal strategy.

However, that is not to say that Arsenal could not have pulled it off.  Had the entire XI been on the same page as to how they wanted to defend, maybe they could have controlled space well enough to limit the threat of Stoke around their goal. But that was not the case at all. It seemed like half the team wanted to take up defensive positions higher up the pitch, as Arsenal have this season, while the other half reverted to the defensive positioning of last season. So while Arsenal’s back five did make plenty of mistakes and lost individual battles, Stoke found it too easy to create situations where Arsenal could make high leverage mistakes, where they could be exploited in individual matchups.

Too often in the English footballing culture is the focus of defending on a particular unit, like a back 4, 5, or 6. There seems to be great an emphasis on individual matchups as well. In reality, eleven men play a role in defending their goal, in controlling space outside of possession. There is limit to how much space any individual defender can cover/control. There is a limit to how many roles a player can adopt at a given moment in time. Therefore, a team should not rely on the merits of their individual defenders to defend. Instead, they must look to the whole unit, looking to maximize their ability to interact and coordinate their actions to control space. This way individuals have less space to cover, can more effectively specialize at a given moment in time, and therefore better control their opponent.

So while I have talked about Arsenal progressing as a side with respect to their pressing and counter-pressing, with their understanding of how to defend high up to keep their opponent’s out of dangerous areas, in addition to facilitating their potency in possession, this match represents a need to get back to a coordinated effort by the eleven players to control space out of possession. It is a rather basic concept, but one that seemed non-existent against Stoke, and cannot be absent from their performance on Saturday, if they wish to avoid another defeat.