Sunday, November 25, 2007

Arsenal falter, but don't fail, without Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb.

Football matches are usually won and lost in midfield. The ball is, more often than not, won or lost in this area, and how play is distributed is, in any half-decent team, decided here. Teams that have confused, imbalanced midfields, or even try and bypass it with long-balls - step forward England! - are usually found out or frustrated pretty quickly.

So yesterday was always going to be a test given the list of suspensions and injuries. Losing one of Hleb, Flamini, Fabregas and Gilberto, despite the latter’s absence for most of this season, was always going to be a challenge; losing all four of them effectively ripped the heart out of the team.

Hleb, and more particularly, Fabregas need to be playing as often as possible: they are the creative hub of the side. Almost all our play is filtered through these two players. And Flamini’s running, tackling and speed of distribution has also proven vital to the midfield’s successful functioning this season.

So I was interested to see how we’d fare without them, especially when I saw the quartet of Rosicky-Diarra-Denilson-Eboue line up.

Overall, a mixed performance. Neither Diarra nor Denilson have the passing range or creativity of Fabregas or Hleb, and whilst we proved adept at winning and keeping possession, at times we looked slightly bereft of ideas. Solid performances from both of them, but nothing more. Rosicky had a half-decent game, capped by a fine goal, but seemed unable to vary his play from continually cutting in from the left-hand side. Eboue showed signs of a desire to run at players, yet suffered from a poor first-touch and a periodic lack of application.

They were not helped by Adebayor putting in another distinctly mediocre performance up front. His almost obsessive desire to attempt flicks, drag-backs and any other skill that complicated play meant our fluency was broken at critical moments. His shooting also left a lot to be desired.

Yet we prevailed. And we did so due to the sheer skill and desire of Billy Gallas and Sagna, a player who has emerged as, so far, one of the signings of the season. His cross, and Gallas’ header were both top-class, and came at a time when Wigan had perhaps begun to fancy nicking the game.

The second quickly followed, as did a deserved three points.

Two other players worthy of note were Theo and Bendtner. Theo looked like one of the few players capable of causing havoc among the Wigan defence. Bendtner already looks like he has more to him than Ade. What Ade has to bust a gut to achieve, Bendtner seems to achieve far more naturally. He has the look of a world-class centre forward to him already, and if he doesn’t achieve this status it’ll be due to mental reasons, not technical ability.

So, a good win, and one that puts some breathing space between us and United (thanks for the goal Nico!) We can win without our first-choice midfield; the evidence we have a title-winning squad continues to mount. Hopefully.


Anonymous said...

thought we looked good & ground out a result we would've drawn last year... Wigan were really good defensively - didn't think we faltered at all - just took our time against a battling team

not convinced by Adebayor - his strike ratio must be pretty poor considering all the chances he gets...

would like to see a lot more of Bentner - skillful & tough & tall enough to win aerial battles - Diarra also looked great

Anonymous said...

which is the worst performance for Arsenal this season? The European match away to Prague. What was the score, 0-0. Who was playing up front? Bentner and Edu. What did they both achieve? Nothing. Infact, they were both poor in that match. Wenger knows why he plays Ade.

Still the team with unbeaten record this season, scored most goals, and top of the league with Ade as the lone striker for most of this season. He is no Henry or Van Persie, but future Drogba, and I am happy he plays for Arsenal. You can't win the league with a young 19 as your main striker in his 1st season in the PL.

Wenger knows

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last poster. It's easy to look good for 10 minutes against tired defenders. Bendtner is a good player and will probably be great for Arsenal in the not too distant future, but lets not over-hype him yet. As for Ade, I saw a stat recently, which suggests he scores 1 in 2 shots on target. That's not too shabby.

Anonymous said...

Adebayor needs to have willing running midfielders otherwise he is isolated, usually it is Hleb, Cesc or Flamini. On Saturday, nobody came forward.

He also needs somebody to be at the end of flick, Walcott did not read a single one of his flicks. Often Adebayor was pointing at Walcott to run behind him so that he could get his flick. He also indicated that when Toure or Denilson play the long diagonal pass, Walcott should run in the same direction to take away the defender, but also to be able to either retrieve the ball himself or at least put that defender under pressure if Adebayor were to miss the ball.

Arsenal had already stated that he see Bentdner as playing in the same style than Adebayor. Niklas Bentdner does not have yet the same ball retention ability as a single target man than Adebayor (see the Carling Cup game and the Slavia game). He is decent with his back to the goal, but not great, however he is already very useful in the building play.

He was good yesterday, because with both Adebayor and himself they posed a double height threat, but also without having the pace of Walcott, he is much better at releasing the ball than him.
Look at his pass in first intention to Sagna for the first goal, and his delayed pass to Rosicky for the second goal.

Anonymous said...

Do not like Ade, have never done and I do not think I ever will unless he does something special on a continuous basis. He scuffs at most of the chances he gets, can't direct a telling pass and runs faster than the ball at times. Pls sell him to Spurs!!
He has only scored in 4 games so far for us out of 13. Not good man!Bendtner shoul be given more opportunities to show what a player he is. And I think he will develope into one of the best around. He has what it takes + confidence.

Anonymous said...

I do not like the way Adebayor claims he's got interest from the mancs, nor that he could easily be the best in the world, or his celebrations (in the past, he always looked for Henry rather than the team; now, he just runs to the fans, rarely giving thought to his teammates around him). If he was really a world-class player, sure, these may be justified, but 1) he slows the pace of the game down because his first touch isnt fantastic (although his control is decent) and hes a little clumsy on the ball, 2) his shooting and more importantly, his heading, isnt of the highest quality. the stats say he scores 2 in 1 on target? perhaps, but thats considering how many shots he gets on target in the frst place.. if anyone was to check out the match highlights of previous games, you would find that someone of his built should be able to convert. But no, hes not good enough, and do show some humility.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you that Denilson is not "creative enough", it's just that Wenger sucks when it comes to game time tactics and Denilson was played elsewhere other than center, where he should have been in the horrible 4-5-1 (why does Wenger keep using this ineffective formation?). Furthermore, Diarra is actually better than Gilberto as a holding midfielder and is as good as Flamini (perhaps in the future, better). So, I do believe they complement each other--in a effective formation--4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1.