Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Dortmund 2-0 Arsenal: Predictable tactics, predictable set up. Predictable result.

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

The lineup signaled trouble. I had said that if we line up like we did against City, Dortmund could walk past us. It doesn't even take a genius to know that a 4-1-4-1 with a suspect defensive midfielder is suicide. To add to that, Wenger didn't even make personnel changes, sticking with what he had in the previous weekend.

Look at Arsenal's right hand channel. Ozil started on the left but played on the right most of the time. Imagine if Klopp had Reus fit and played him on Arsenal's right side. Bellerin and Ozil defending Reus? Far from ideal. As it stood, since Reus was injured Klopp was forced to play Grosskreutz there, so the effect minimized slightly.

We were incredibly lucky to only be 1-0 down at half time. Dortmund compressed every inch of space our midfielders had, which left us with either back passing or trying two or three shimmies to find space. The only midfielder at Arsenal excellent at shimmying his way into space is Santi Cazorla, who was benched until the customary 62nd minute substitution.

Arteta had a torrid time, which was completely expected. If you have a slow defensive midfielder, the least you can do is support him with a box-to-box midfielder, like Wilshere or Ramsey. He's leggy and not a natural DM anyway, yet he's left brutally exposed and completely alone. Dortmund pressed him into submission.

We can't play the "slowing the game down" and "pass and move" trick against Dortmund. The likes of Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain or Santi Cazorla should have played, because they press the ball and would leave Dortmund wary. Instead, Wenger played right into Klopp's hands by overplaying and mispositioning Ozil and Ramsey.

Sanchez and Welbeck were so alone up there. People chastised Welbeck for three misses in the game, and the criticism may be warranted. But you can't expect to leave a striker completely alone and bewildered, then surprise him with a quick chance and expect him to regain his focus and finish neatly. We anyways knew that his finishing is suspect and he's far from the refined product.

Immobile's opener highlighted how Dortmund had sapped the confidence out of Arsenal's defence. He picked the ball up in midfield and charged into space, right in between Koscielny and Gibbs. Both of them seemed hesitant to either win the ball early on or commit a "tactical foul". The Italian admittedly got a crucial yard of pace through a lucky touch, but finished quite efficiently. A frustratingly avoidable goal, but Dortmund deserved more.

It's one thing to have a blatantly incorrect one-dimensional tactical setup, but quite another to persist with it when it's not working out. Jose Mourinho makes changes and revamps his tactics even 20 minutes into the match. Wenger? He finally brought a confidence-depleted Mesut Ozil in the centre after Dortmund were cruising at 2-0.

I don't know if he tries or not, but Wenger can't even suitably motivate his team to play like men. Despite the pace, panache and pedigree we possess, we've looked flat and pedestrian-paced in every match except City. And God help us should we go 1-0 down, for the whole team sulks into oblivion.

Our attack is so good, but Wenger won't bring the best out of them. He won't play the right players in the right matches, nor will he keep rotating the squad to keep everyone happy and few injured. Look at Szczesny: he played worryingly against Dortmund, yet Wenger won't replace him with Ospina for even one game, to show him that no one's place is guaranteed.

People say that he played Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey because he had "faith" in them. I completely disagree - Wenger keeps playing such players because he has almost no idea about the concept of rotation.

He'll keep playing his starting XI game after game and only genuinely rotates in FA Cups (sometimes) and Capital One Cups. He won't give his starting XI a modicum of rest, and overplays them until they get injured. Then he simply replaces the injured players by the ones on the bench, like Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain or Podolski.

With all due respect, I don't think that it's extremely difficult to fit all our attacking pieces into the jigsaw puzzle. Take a gander at the two photos below: how's that for first choice lineup and second choice?

Starting XI
Substitute XI

A lineup not in connection to form or fitness, but one that I strongly think should be our starting XI. There's plenty of room for improvement there as well - Giroud and Welbeck or Podolski and Campbell could battle it out. For the moment I've written Welbeck and Podolski for I think they might be the eventual winners, but there you go. Even if Podolski and Joel Campbell are even, Wenger could replace Campbell for the ageing Rosicky.

For now, though, what we need to do is remove Ozil and Ramsey from the team. Aside from them being out of depth, they're in danger of being injured because they've played too much. Maybe even Alexis needs a rest.

Meh, what's the point? We talk problems and offer solutions but in the end Wenger won't give a fuck. He'll continue with 4-1-4-1 and overplaying and mispositioning Ozil and Ramsey, because either he's too stubborn or too foolish. Not unless the whole crowd is on his back and implores him to change the structure will he do the needful, albeit reluctantly.

The only genuine silver lining is that people are finally realizing Wenger's deficiencies on the pitch, 5 years too late. That's one thing they can't attribute to money or referees. That's pushing him further out of the exit door.

Sometimes I feel fortunate that I'm so young, for I will be in prime age to see an Arsenal without Wenger, one that actually progresses.

Hashtag positives.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]

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