What does Arsene Wenger need to do to maintain it?
Arsenal’s most recent league win against Tottenham should give the team enough of a lift to push on and form a positive run in all competitions. Arguably, the squad was equally poor last season, but the 5-2 win in February did a lot for Arsenal’s charge on the Champions League places in the league table.
It’s never easy to directly pinpoint where Arsenal’s weaknesses are. The team can play exceptionally well one week, with every member of the XI performing to the highest standard. Yet the team are equally capable of self-destructing as soon as the next game rolls around.
But taking aside the argument that Arsenal would have lost the game if Tottenham didn’t go down to ten men at the Emirates, it was clear to see that the make up of the starting XI that day were of quality and purpose. The midfield was the trio that Arsenal supporters are hoping to see much, much more of: Mikel Arteta anchoring a midfield with Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere pushing ahead.
It was a midfield with direction and instructions fitting each player. Wilshere and Cazorla didn’t share as many passes as Cazorla and Arteta, but it became clear that Arsenal had two outlets through the middle, both of whom were capable and of necessary quality to compliment the other. Quite simply, there were no square pegs in round holes.
And that has been one of the major reasons for Arsenal’s continued downfall in recent seasons. The squad isn’t strong enough beyond the first choice XI, and only one player inserted into the team who isn’t good enough can have a negative impact on the rest.
Despite Thomas Vermaelen playing slightly out of position at left-back, there were no passengers in the team. Mentality is a completely different issue, but the team on the day were good enough to carry out the manager’s instructions. With the Arsene Wenger’s unwavering desire to play attractive, attacking football, he did have the personnel to do it.
Aaron Ramsey can’t do what Wilshere and Cazorla do in the midfield, and Gervinho is not as good as any of the three attackers who lined up in the front three that day. Does that mean Wenger needs to play the same team in each game to achieve maximum results? That’s impossible, but he does need to alter the tactics to suit what he has available. If he wants to persist with the quick and accurate tempo of the game against Spurs, he needs the buy players who fit exactly with his playing philosophy.
Arguably, Wojciech Szczesny gave the defensive line a lot more stability, despite the centre-backs going missing for Tottenham’s first goal. On the other hand, it would be disappointing to think the team and especially the defence could only get themselves motivated for a derby. But even in the goalkeeping position, Wenger needs to instil a good level of competition and the right player to properly compliment the others on the pitch.
Olivier Giroud gives the team another dimension in attack and Theo Walcott has spoken about the positive rapport between the two of them. With Walcott and Bacary Sagna in the side, Arsenal can and did take advantage of an aerially strong attacker in the box.. It’s still very much about the rapid tempo and getting the ball up the pitch quickly, but the team had the right players in place to carry out their tactics successfully. Arsenal have been undone so many times over the years with crosses into the box and no one on the end of them. The team now have a striker who attacks the ball well and is built like a genuine no.9.
It’s been covered countless times in the past, but success for this Arsenal team is all about the manager doing the best with what he has. If Theo Walcott is out then replace him with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right flank to continue the high tempo on that side of the pitch. Inserting Ramsey there is counterproductive and also arguably shows the little faith the manager has in using him through the middle.
The game against Tottenham should be seen as the best example of what can be done with a team of players who know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing on a pitch and are good enough to carry out the orders from above. There’s been very little consistency to Arsenal game this season, with the back line who saw three consecutive clean sheets broken up due to injury or the desire to rotate.
Arsene Wenger made the point that Walcott finished the game against Tottenham as the striker, but was quick to praise the players in the team like Cazorla and Wilshere who would always find him in the final third. The problem is that Arsenal’s quality from game to game is not a constant, but as has always been the case, if Wenger wants to bring the very best out of his leading stars, he needs to surround them with players who can help to elevate their game.