Arsene: “We are not a team in transition”

Guys! No football for Chelsea this weekend. So I thought I’ll write about Arsenal as our reader joeblue wanted to discuss about Arsenal’s progress this season. I’m writing this after Arsenal & Graham Poll beat Tottenham 3-0. This is to say that today’s result has not changed my view of Arsenal this season. So, what’s hurting Arsenal and why are they doing so poorly this season that Fulham fans are singing “can we play you every week”. 10 reasons!

1. Arsene Wenger

The man who transformed Arsenal is now unfortunately the culprit. His every move and words are realised by the fans and critics as ridiculous – his signings, his team selection, the roles he assigns to players, his strategy and of course, his embarrasing post-match comments. Overall, he should take the blame for most of their problems. He does not have the guts to drop who performs poorly and he cannot tell Henry to give away his captaincy to a real leader in the team. Looking at his team’s lack lustre game time and again, I have to conclude that he is a poor motivator too. He can’t blame it on lack of money or whatever. It was their strategy to spend a billion pounds on the new stadium and still he had decent amount of money which he did not make best use of.

2. All pass – No shoot game

They play possession football (their fans call it beautiful football!). Their midfield keeps passing until they get 6 inches from the goal post. This works against those little teams that look at them in awe and allow them to play their game. They play this way also because, there are only 2 geniune goal scorers in Arsenal now – Henry and van Persie. The other players, even if they get a position where they can give it a shot, just tamely pass it to the goal scorers in poorer positions. No wingers in the team and full backs are not at their best as they aren’t sure whether the other players will trackback for defensive duties, if needed. This won’t work always.

3. It’s freakin predictable

From Watford to Chelsea, they all know how Arsenal plays. It is just going by Arsene’s script and he bloody never changes his script because he won this way some seasons back. Now, their runs, their movements, their triangle passes, their 1-2s, everything is completely predictable. They dont even counter-attack! If they get a break, they hold the ball aloowing the whole of the opposition eleven to crowd in the last third and scrap-defend somwhow. If you have seen the teams defending them this season, you can realise that they have read Arsenal’s game so well and they have never been disappointed. To all the league one and league two teams that might play Arsenal in any of the cup matches – If you dont plan to attack them, you won’t lose.

4. Thierry Henry

For all the drama on the night of Champions League final and his much-awaited decision of staying with Arsenal, he has not pulled a plant in this season. After his outburst against Barca players and their methods and his signing of a new contract with Arsenal, I thought he is gonna play with the fire in his belly to achieve something this season. But now, he looks hardly determined to take the ball to the box. He is a captain and only his armband will tell you this. Great players need not make good captains. He is not inspirational and this has a huge impact on the team when the team is a goal down or something. With two open play goals this season so far, he looks completely out of sorts.

5. Lack of experience

It was purely Arsene Wenger’s decision to leave out Vieira, Pires and the like and he could have either avoided it or timed it better or atleast need not have flushed them all in one season. It was his own strategy to buy ‘talented’ youngsters and improve them and now he cannot give this excuse of team being inexperienced. His scoutings and signings of the youngsters have been flops over the last two seasons and his youngsters have disappointed him – adebayor is blind, eboue inconsisent, with Song or Hoyte, you start a man down etc. While Arsene was hailed for bringing and developing young ‘talent’, he should also take the stick for the other consequences of a young team.

6. Lack of muscles

Like they say, Arsenal is now a light-weight team. Barring one or two, all others get easily outmuscled by the opponents. Their midfield players like Fabregas, Hleb, Flamini are all very light and in fact, against good defenders/midfielders, they are just pushovers. If you’re ready to tackle them hard, you’ll kill their game. Whenever they are hard tackled and outmuscled to win the ball, Arsenal players and manager feel that the opponents are playing dirty. As long as they think this way, any team in EPL would know how to negotiate them. Tackling hard is very much part of the game, if you dont know how to do it or how to handle it, it’s your fault.

7. No balls

Most of their matches so far this season (about 9, may be), they have conceded the goal early on and keep chasing the opposition. How many times have they come back and beaten the opponent – one against lowly Hamburg (19th in Bundesliga). No team spirit, no determination and no one has the burning desire to win. They dont show their reaction or response in a rousing manner. You can see smiling Arsenal faces after a bad defeat! They dont feel insulted when they lose. Simply put, no balls.

8. Cornered in Set Pieces

Their defending in corners have been the best joke of the season. Poor marking, no positional cognizance and running the other way round lol! Their attacking in corners has also been below par for a so-called top 4 team. Apart from a header from Adeb and Gallas, no impact at all. The opposition defenders can defend effortlessly as mostly the delivery will be crap. As their conversion ratio is so poor, this gives another avenue for the defence to clear the ball anywhere.

9. Headless game

This is an offshoot of their all pass-no shoot game. They are poor in the air. They’ll never win the 50-50 headers against decent teams. Barring Walcott, no one seems to be crossing to the head, they all just pass to the feet. So, the opposition defence can throw themselves on the 3-metre passing line and stop their flow. When the opponent plays in the air, crossing the ball, their timing goes wayward. With this kind of game, they’ll get killed in Europe, unless they wish to play crap ‘men-behind-ball’ like last season.

10. Deformation of 4-5-1

A defensive 4-5-1 did work for them in the Champions League. Henry looks lost in 4-5-1 and takes too much burden. With Henry as the 1 in 4-5-1, he is anyway over-marked by the defenders to nullify the only possible goal scorer in Arsenal. Even if he holds the ball, there is only one way of scoring goals now, that is from Henry, so defenders have an eagle eye on him. Adebayor is a waste of space if he is the 1 in the 4-5-1. I guess the opponent defenders would rejoice if the see the Arsenal team sheet that Adeb is the lone striker. And van Persie is also not a striker to play in 4-5-1, as he can’t hold the ball. So, a wrong formation for the current composition of this team.

My prediction for Arsenal this season is 5th place. I dont think I’ll see them in the Champions League next season. And in Champions league, well, let them finish Porto first!

[tags] Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Theirry henry, Wenger, Henry, Rosicky, Fabregas, van Persie, Premiership, Champions League [/tags]

What I am? Uber football addict, optimistic Chelsea fan, casual gamer and long time blogger with views and opinions rather than stats and data. What I'm not? Expert, analyst, pundit or self-proclaimed guru of anything. I choose when to be biased and when not to be. Views and opinions are all mine and not what you always might want to see. Follow me on twitter @bluechampion for the headlines.