Thursday, 23 October 2014

Anderlecht 1-2 Arsenal: We're wasting our time looking for the perfect goal

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

Wow, so much for closing the game early and resting key players. We barely do things the normal way, do we?

I don't feel I have to justify my happiness to everyone. For obvious reasons, being on the sunny side of late drama is always a fantastic feeling. I'm not going to waste much time trying to accentuate the positives in hope that people have the patience to read my negative thoughts aplenty. I trust we've gone past that phase.

So let's get on with it, right?

Firstly, the formation. I said in the preview that 4-1-4-1 away from home doesn't help us click much offensively and increases defensive frailty. It's not even a particularly earth-shattering fact to reveal. Almost every Arsenal supporter - whatever their views on Arsene Wenger - would be foolish to argue that 4-1-4-1 has been anything other than a failure. Yet it seems the maestro has stubbornly persisted with it.

I must confess I don't see why Santi Cazorla is always played on the left in this structure. I understand that Wenger's style of football involves having a more creative midfielder on the left flank, as we saw with Robert Pires and Samir Nasri. It may also have been a major factor in him chasing Draxler. But please, it's been way too obvious for way too long that Santi Cazorla is not that kind of player. He may produce the odd magic in that position, but is far too inconsistent to be considered a viable option there. Santi Cazorla will always play best in the middle.

The partnership of Ramsey and Wilshere as attacking midfielders is getting increasingly tiring to criticise. Sure, I believe Wilshere can do a good job as a lone attacking midfielder (the role Ozil tends to thrive in), and I'll also confess that for a moment I thought that even Aaron Ramsey's more natural position was in "the hole". However, it was apparent that the 4-1-4-1 with Ramsey and Wilshere was a system that didn't click way back in even August. Why does Wenger always take so long to see the light?

It's unbelievable how much we're trying to emulate Barcelona. We're not even doing it correctly. Barcelona aren't as tippy-tappy as we are around the box. As soon as the likes of Wilshere or Ramsey reach the edge of the box, they either hopefully try to dribble through or pass it sideways to Welbeck. Barcelona have always been more clinical. Either Messi successfully dribbles past the players and slots it past the keeper, or they quickly get the ball wide and get a low cross in.

The players we have are almost perfect for a more counter-attacking wing-play Real Madrid-esque kind of football. Wenger is curbing this team's attacking potency by sticking with possession football.

Even if we want to play like Barcelona, we need to defend like them. Only ex-Catalan Alexis Sanchez tracks back and harries the opposition when we lose possession. Yesterday was the ideal time to lend a helping hand to a shaky defence supervised by a rookie goalkeeper and defend like a unit. We didn't do that. How many times would the same mistake have to be observed before the manager does something about it?

Even successfully emulating Barcelona's style of play is not enough. Real Madrid defeating Bayern 4-0 at the Allianz was a fine example of how keep-ball isn't as effective as made out to be. Here's Guardiola on that subject (via @MessiMinutes):

"I got it totally wrong. A total mess. The biggest f*ck up of my life as a coach."

In addition, he also says that he "detests" the tiki-taka style he pioneered at Barcelona, saying it "has no purpose."

Again, how long would it take for Wenger to realize that?

Even so, wing play proves to be the style that provides the 1% difference in beating big teams. Employing possession football against Anderlecht isn't particularly harmful. But again, why does Wenger not change the system when it's not working? He waited until the team was 1-0 down and there were little over than 15 minutes to play to make his substitutions.

Yes, in the end it was the substitute Podolski who sealed an emotional win, but let's not call it a tactical masterstroke of any sort. Joel Campbell and Podolski are always Wenger's default last-ditch panicky rolls of the dice. They aren't going to start any games to follow. At best, they'd come on from the bench if we're trailing with 10-20 minutes to go. Yes, they're terrific bench options, but don't you think that these bench options should be starting once in a while, so that players like Alexis and Welbeck aren't too tired?

For obvious reasons the euphoria of the victory hid the frustrations of 88 minutes past, but there's still no hiding our dire performance yesterday, or indeed, this season so far. The manager has tinkered with the personnel and the formation for way too long, resulting in much confusion and dysfunctional-ism.

Sanchez is the only player who seems to want to punch above his weight. How long before even he slumps into the doom and gloom of the dressing room and the fans? Three months since he's arrived and we're already contemplating when he'd leave the club for one that would fulfill his ambitions. You can't blame us, we've seen it happen before. Unless the manager finds the most ideal structure to get his team flowing (which, let's face it, seems unlikely), his successor would have trouble keeping ambitious players like Alexis around.


Man, that was hugely depressing. Time to negate the negativity by a joke.

"If he takes you out for a romantic date on Tuesday and Wednesday nights instead of watching UEFA Champions League, then it's not LOVE.

... He is a Manchester United fan."


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Right, that's that. Happy Diwali to my Indian readers - stay away from firecrackers and deluded Liverpool supporters who told you that the 3-0 mauling was a close game. Later.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]