Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Arsenal 0-1 Swansea: One of those?

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

The lineup...
The argument around the Arsenal (Twitter) camp stirred when there was no Jack Wilshere, no Theo Walcott or at a stretch, no Tomas Rosicky given a start. Retorts followed: "Why would anyone change a winning team?"

After yesterday's first half performance it became clear why. I fully understand that this is a team in form and probably merit their starting berths, but rotating players is not all to do with bringing squad players inside after injuries or suspensions. Sometimes, even the best players need a rest, or need to lay back and reanalyze their game.

The same tactics and personnel won't work against every team on Earth. I agree that playing Ramsey on the right flank worked well against Liverpool and Hull City, but that does not mean shunting him there against every opposition. Back against Liverpool, we were dazzling. Today, we were narrow.

Selecting a starting eleven depends on the traits of the opposition as much as it depends on the traits of ours. Team selection is a subjective concept, not an objective one. However, Wenger's refusal to change a winning team will not only cost us in the short term, it will also cost us in the long term when the likes of Wilshere, Walcott and Rosicky will leave for lack of game time.

Rotation is important for morale as well as for keeping players physically fresh. I've been pointing this flaw out throughout our winning streak simply because it's so avoidable. Today, the game needed the flair of Wilshere and Rosicky, and the pace of Walcott.

We aren't getting injuries because there's a huge gap between matches having little importance. This won't happen between August-February though, which is why learning the practice of rotation is imperative. 

The tactical approach...
Toward the end of the first half, Mesut Ozil proved his true wizardry when he himself seemed to be forming a tactical gameplan of his own. Realizing that Giroud was getting crowded by Swansea and Arsenal attacks were breaking down when they got to him, he decided to drop deep and spray balls from there. It worked to great effect because Giroud is always prone to pinballing passes when he gets them from afar, which resulted in some quick passing and, invariably, chances.

Was this masterminded by Wenger? Unlikely, because any manager looking to deploy their most creative midfielder at the center of the pitch would not opt to remove the defensive support (aka Francis Coquelin) from there.

Also, Mesut Ozil's general tendency to drift toward pockets of space (here, the middle of the park because Swansea had no proper striker to hound the defenders and the midfielders), and Wenger's track record of his general one-dimensional tactical approach also speaks against him.

The impression I got from the manager was that he sensed a goal was coming, so he stuck with his plan. It's not a foolish idea - it seemed to be working in the second half and we were creating chances. My concern, however, lied when he withdrew Coquelin. The move reeked of "Losing/chasing? Bring off Coquelin for a forward. Doesn't matter how we're playing or what the other team are doing, just do it."

The pre-plannedness of this Wenger move worried me, as it did everyone. 

David Ospina...
He should have saved that - it's ridiculous to even debate it. He's been augmented by a very good defensive unit in recent times and has been on a good run himself, but using that argument to support the fact that he flapped a straightforward parry is baffling. For the Indian audience, it's almost like justifying Salman Khan's crimes because of the Being Human that followed.

I've always felt Szczesny was the superior keeper despite his supposedly arrogant personality, and I hope to see him more often after yesterday. Obviously I'd be more than welcoming should Wenger decide otherwise and buy a goalkeeper, but considering the dearth in the market and Wenger's general tendency to put faith in his players (Ospina's a newbie, too), it seems unlikely.

It could be worse. Juggling between Szczesny and Ospina is better than juggling between Almunia and Fabianski.

In conclusion...
We weren't poor by any stretch, and should have won this game regardless of Wenger's choices of hoofing Coquelin and playing Walcott as a center forward, so I'm tempted to coin the unlucky term on this game. However, seeing the entire team with no structure nor organization ever since Francis left the pitch was very worrying, and reminiscent of Anderlecht, Monaco, Manchester United and indeed, Swansea away. I understand the manager's ineptness, but surely the players ought to have had the nous to leave more players than Koscielny and Ospina behind the halfway line?

P.S. Apologies for the dysfunctionalism of this post - but I've been a bit busy over the times. Hopefully that should change soon. Until then.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]