Sunday, 14 September 2014

Arsenal 2-2 Man City: Should have won it, lucky not to lose it

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

Right, quick one from me today.

4-1-4-1 can work at home, but we should try for 4-2-3-1 more...
The fluency of our attack was eased a bit yesterday. In the month past, it seemed like Wenger was failing in trying to bring the best out of a very potent attack. Failed strategies included switching Sanchez's wings, playing Ozil on the left and playing Ramsey in one of the attacking midfield slots. Sanogo up front served to compound the conundrum.

Yesterday was different. Perhaps it was Wilshere's burning desire to create something, an electric Emirates atmosphere, Danny Welbeck's lively first half or all of the above, but we seemed to click more as an outfit. The downside was that the players who were mispositioned owing to this formation - Ramsey and Ozil - were the ones relatively invisible.

However, I still believe that a 4-2-3-1 formation would be much preferable for us. Arsenal are more used to that formation, we won't get caught on the break with that formation, our weak defensive midfielders will at least get more support, our personnel will fit in their right positions... it's a win-win. A fantastic home support and a lethargic City meant that we came flying out of the doors. It's definitely an option, but I don't think it should be our first. We won't always meet slow opponents at the Emirates.

Our defence is back to how it was...
There's a definite problem here. Almost every goal we've conceded this season have come from crosses or set pieces. In fact, I think that Steven Naismith's goal in the 2-2 match at Goodison was the exception.

We are weak at the back number-wise, but we're falling short quality-wise as well.  Mertesacker's been underwhelming, Monreal wasn't helped by Ozil, Debuchy's reportedly out for two months, and our defensive midfielders look worse than anyone's. I have a feeling that a defensive crisis is on the cusp, one which we plunged ourselves in, quite unnecessarily. In these times I hope Wenger calls back Carl Jenkinson and buys Mario Yepes. Not ideal, but a much-needed stop-gap.

But more than that, what worries me is that our last-season's trait of defending as a unit has disappeared. Steve Bould's magic has either been found out, or Wenger has decided to take control again. I don't know the problem to suggest a solution, but it's not looking good.

We better hope Arsene has a DM trick up his sleeve...
This formation has further exposed our defensive weakness. Isolating the DM in a 4-1-4-1 has put more pressure on them and made a further mess of our defence. Now, I know that since the transfer market is over Wenger can't go for a defensive midfielder (and by the looks of it, he didn't want to), but I hope that he has a trump card in his deck. Maybe he thinks Diaby has shook off all his injury woes for good, or he thinks Coquelin can make the cut, I don't know. But I hope that he has something up his sleeve. Time will tell.

Wenger doesn't know substitutions...
Why wait until Debuchy is injured to make your first substitution? Why not shut up shop after Alexis scored a belter to take us on the brink of an important win? Why not bring a goal-getter on instead of Arteta? Wenger's substitutions were as baffling as his tactics. I guess they go hand in hand.

Ramsey and Ozil don't deserve criticism yet...
I more than agree that they have been largely below-par this season. Ramsey's goals-and-assists ratio may have shielded him from more criticism, but performance-wise he hasn't looked up to it. Ozil, too, has been looking disinterested and bewildering at times. When people say that he tends to drag defenders towards him or has a "subtle impact", I feel that they're grasping at straws and don't really believe what they're saying.

The only reason I have refrained from criticizing them is because they're being mispositioned in a weird formation. Should Ramsey be placed alongside Arteta/Flamini in a 4-2-3-1 and Ozil in his preferred "hole" and they still disappoint, criticism shall surely be warranted. As of now, more out of hope or anything, I'm still reserving judgment.

Welbeck needs service...
Danny was excellent in the first half, but he cut a lonesome figure once Arsenal conceded. Perhaps he hasn't adjusted his wavelength to the midfielders beside him, because there were times that he was anonymous.
He's still raw, but 4 months could significantly change him for the better. I still think it was an encouraging debut, and if he manages to click with the players behind him, I have no doubt we'll have a massive Giroud upgrade on our hands.

Wilshere and Alexis were the stars...
What I really like about these players is that they're hardworking. They aren't the kind of guys who sulk when the going gets tough. They're workmanlike, determined, military-esque efficient people who are desperate to make a difference. Their hunger is salivating, and it's bringing results.

Part of the Mesut Ozil criticism was derived from the energy that Wilshere and Alexis exuded throughout the game. There were always questions about Ozil's workrate, and Sanchez's motorbike running sort of highlighted that.

The reason I think Wenger is playing Ozil on the left is because he wants Ozil to appreciate the space he's been given once he's eventually shifted to the centre. When a player is shunted on the flanks, he has only one side of the pitch to turn into, which sort of gives them tunnel vision. Once they are given the freedom to play in the middle, they appreciate the space on both sides and make the most of it. Wenger has done the same to Ramsey and Cazorla to great effect. It's one of the tactics I've come to like about the manager. Whether it works with Ozil or not is yet to be seen.

Whisper it quietly, but we still don't look like title winners...
Still early days, but we've picked up only 6 points from 4 matches. The only game we've won - Crystal Palace - could just as easily have been a draw as well. We do have the potential and the personnel to do much better, but Wenger's formations and tactics are restricting us. To turn this around and become title challengers, we need to start clicking or tweak the system, starting Tuesday.

Time will tell if we do.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]