Sunday, October 22, 2006

Devastating Arsenal show they can win the league this year.

When you score in the first minute of a game it can sometimes destabilise a team, making them unsure whether to press on for further goals or to try and consolidate their advantage. There was never much chance of us sitting back after we took the lead, but the way we played out the rest of the game was little short of magnificent.

Is 4-5-1 our best formation? I'm gradually coming round to the possibility that it is. Arsenal are, essentially, a team of midfielders. Many, if not most, of our forwards and defenders started as midfielders before converting. We are, at least, a team of players who are supremely confident of passing and running with the ball. A 4-5-1 allows us to build on these strengths, and gives Henry even more freedom to roam at the front. Gilberto can play deeper, where he wants to be, and concentrate on breaking up and redistributing the play. Hleb, Rosicky and Fabregas can operate in, what was today, an awesome tandom of inventiveness, feedingThierry and playing quick pass and move football. I also noticed that, because it's becoming clearer that goals can come from our midfield, Thierry is dropping slightly deeper at times, allowing midfielders to run in front of him.

Reading just never seemed in it. They just couldn't contain a Fabregas who was undoubtedly buoyed by his new contract. More than ever, he seemed to pull the strings, as the team continues to mould itself around him as much, or even more, than Henry. Thierry took his first goal wonderfully, stroking the ball into the net rather than thrashing at it. Rosicky deserved a goal: his power, pace and passes have quickly turned him into a vital part of the team. He's as skilful as Pires, if not with the goals yet, but he's a true competitor, and I can't see us losing as many games this year with him in the midfield.

Alex Hleb also had a storming game. Many fans often vent their frustration about him because of his lack of shooting and his often understated role in proceedings. But he rose to these critics with aplomb today. His first goal stemmed from a majestic one-two with Rosicky, leading to a thundering, unstoppable finish. His second could, perhaps should, have followed. His unselfishness laid RvP's goal on a plate, and he, on at least one other opportunity, passed in the second half when he should have had the belief to shoot. A confident Hleb is one of the best midfielders in the premiership; a fact which has been criminally under recognised in his time at Arsenal hitherto.

I really believe that the triumvirate of Fabregas, Hleb and Rosicky will be the key to our title chances this season. If Gilberto is solid behind them, and Thierry dangerous in front, they have the ability to dissect opposing teams and drive us to the title. 442, with Adebayor up front with Henry, could be used as an alternative against teams, such as Moscow on Wednesday, who successfully nullify our 'plan A' of using these three as the fulcrum for the team.

Elsewhere, I though Hoyte did excellently at r-b. The Cygan/Song comparisons are not justifiable, especially now he's on his favoured right side. Jens pulled off a few good saves, and also, amusingly, shook his finger at Hunt ( who seems to be a complete wind-up merchant). Djourou and Toure were also more than solid. At one point, Kolo tackled a Reading player, and chased the ball to the corner flag, in a clearly futile endeavour, to try and retain possesion. It was great to see that level of commitment.

Only two slight reasons for pause. Firstly, Gallas was a little too casual at times. On more than occasion he was dispossesed due to a lack of concentration , which a better team may have punished. He's been utterly superb so far for us this year, so I hope these were blips.

Secondly, Van Persie. Scoring a goal dosen't always mean a good perfomance - especially when its handed to you due to the quick thinking of a colleague. Indeed, Hleb and RvP are almost antithetical players. Hleb creates chances, makes things happen, and is often, and very unfairly, not given credit for his critical role in the team. RvP is a very 'flash' player; almost a luxury. He shoots rather than passes, and scores fantastic goals. He gives us an extra dimension, when so many of our players sometimes do pass the ball around a little too much. Yet, his goals can overshadow some worrying aspects of his play. Early in the first half, when it was only 1-0, he had runners either side of him as we heavily outnumbered the Reading defence in a counter attack. Instead of laying the ball off to a better placed team-mate, he shot weakly, wasting the opportunity. A few minutes later, he passed when he should have taken a shot. Towards the end of the half, he hopelessly sliced the ball when it was threaded through to him. He did not play well today, and he needs to learn how to balance his shooting/passing ratio. That he seems to have a desire to do this, should mean he will become a better player.

So, overall, we played sublime, devastating football in what many of us thought would be a difficult game. In doing so, our little heralded challenge for the title continues to gain pace. A final question to ponder: would 4-5-1 work at Stamford Bridge? The answer to that could decide the league.


Anonymous said...

You write very well and your arguments and opinions are interesting to read! Thanks for sharing this with us.

Anonymous said...

spot on write up,just one queery,when we control a game like this do you think arsene(god) could not rest henry,fabby,kolo,etc,towards the latter part of games & give other young un,s a go?

Anonymous said...

Wow. I have to say that today's performance was more about how great Arsenal is than anything about Reading. Reading have played Man U. and Chelsea almost even, but you guys just dominated. You have to be considered favorites to win the league this year, no doubt.

And I completely agree about RvP. If this were a tighter game, he would have been the goat as he squandered golden chance after golden chance with completely selfish and ineffective play. As talented as he is, he doesn't fit into the Arsenal style of play at all.

In Reading's defense, I'll say they're better than they looked today, you guys were just too good.

Anonymous said...

You r very right in your comments, particularly about RvP. He needs to change his teamplay in the final third if he is to be a long term partner to TH14. He wants to get his own goals but he needs to work for others for others to work for him. I also think he did not play well today. I hope Arsene picks up this problem and arrests it accordingly.

I have mentioned before. Hleb, Rosicky & Cesc may decide the destination of the title this season. Cesc needs shooting lessons, as I think he needs a few goals to boost his game.
As for Rosicky & Hleb, they need to be relentless through the season. We all know Rosicky can shoot and score. Hleb needs to be doing this regularly too. By the time Diaby Lauren and Baptista reach this season's peak, nothing would stop the Gunners from winning the title.

Walcott needs play alongside TH14. I'm not happy he's not yet started with Henry. He's a striker, not a midfielder.

Anyways, well done guys.

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Anonymous said...

AW's substitutions seemed to me to not be about spelling tired players.

These players can pace themselves when 3-0 ahead, with a week off after this match? I reckon.

Wenger seems to be still blooding youngsters, and possibly thinking 3-4 years ahead, working on combinations, or, getting Theo practice on the wings, to learn how Henry runs when a man out wide has the ball. That's how Theo'll learn what to do when he's the main man, or at least challenging to be the main man. Theo is a sponge, soaking it all up. Let him blaze among the u-21s, taking what he's learned onto that stage. I still haven't seen enough of him to think that it's worth putting Bentner, Lupoli, Aliadiere and possibly Van Persie's nose out of joint and stirring up resentment in the dressing room that English players get the nod b/c they are English. That would undo a lot of Wenger's hard work instilling a meritocratic ethos at Arsenal, and perhaps undermine a bit of the importance of hierarchy within the squad. Senior players need competition, but they also need to know their contributions have been appreciated or they take their valuable experience elsewhere - just ask Gallas. AW knows who is tired and who needs a break.

gazzap said...

what a fantastic game. Our midfield was totally dominant. reading were reduced to crossing from 35 yards out and hoping for the best. Gallas may be a bit unfit after his hamstring, but RVP continues to frustrate me. he makes wrong decisions all the time. Its like if he misses a shot he thinks 'next time I will pass it', which he does, but at a time when its better to shoot! he seems incapable of making the decision in in the split second like all his team mates.

he is not a left winger. he is a striker, but if we are playing 4-5-1, I just dont see a place for him. I'd rather give Theo a go there.

Anonymous said...

You Gooners are talking of the title just because you had a good day and Reading had an off day. Your players are good to look at but like many artists, their performance depends on their mood on that day. Brilliant one day; flat the next. Just see what happened at Moscow. Chelsea win matches no matter if they are feeling up or down. That is what Champions are made off - true British Grit.

Goonerboy said...

Sorry, is that last comment meant to be a parody of Alan Hansen?

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to have a suspicion that WG10 is not happy about being played at LB. It was understandable when they was no cover at LB (i.e Clichy). Now Clichy is back I think WG10 expects to be moved into CB. Now that Senderos is back, I don't think Le Boss would move him in. In our interest, Kolo needs a long term partner at CB and we need to plug that. I want to see WG10 at CB all the time but I fear this may not happen and Gallas may go.

What do you guys think?

Anonymous said...

Let's stop this Song bashing please!