Yet again this weekend Arsene Wenger and his team showed just why they are not ready to challenge for the title. Yes, at times the football was very pretty but in the end the 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge showed that they are still a step off the level of Chelsea and Manchester United.
It was a day of ‘nearly’ for the Gunners who had a few good chances but a reluctance to shoot (Nasri) and a bad start meant they were always going to be chasing the game. Gael Clichy once again suffered a rush to the head similar to that against Manchester United where he decided to let Park run all the way from the half way line to the goal without being closed down. This time he decided that the back post would offer no threat and decided to stroll across and stand next to his goal keeper to allow Drogba to side-foot home, at the back post!
According to George Graham, Wenger is a big fan of the Barcelona way of football. Passing and playing the beautiful game how it should be. Graham told The Sun
“Arsene Wenger is a great believer in total football. He loves the way Barcelona play and I think he wants Arsenal to evolve that way”
His 4-3-3 set up is reminiscent of the Barcelona system. Wenger’s faith in ‘Total Football’, in which theoretically each player can be replaced in their position by a team-mate, has proved to be a stumbling block. For a number of games he has persisted in playing Arshavin as a lone striker, flanked by Walcott and Nasri. Arshavin has looked a shadow of the player who started his Arsenal career in scintillating form. Arsenal have evolved to show traits of the Barcelona system but it may be a few years until they fully adapt to the system. After all, it is a theory that was brought to Barcelona by Johan Cruyff in 1988.
The other worry for Wenger would be his team’s vulnerability in defence. With 2 very attack minded, wide wingers, Wenger is putting his team under more pressure defensively than if he played a 4-4-2 formation. When Arsenal were at their prime they played with combative, tough tackling midfielders and usually in a 4-4-2 system. Since then Wenger has attempted to bring in youth without replacing the combative players. Walcott, Nasri, Arshavin, Rosicky and Ramsey would struggle to make a big challenge if they were all roped together.
Although 4-3-3 is a system used by many teams, without a real target man up front, Arsenal have struggled to make it work. The difference between the effectiveness of Drogba and Arshavin in the forward role must have shown Wenger what he needs to do. The introduction of Bendtner changed the game for Arsenal. In the short period he was on, the big Dane showed a lot of promise in using his strength a power to hold up the ball and bring the rest of his team into play. He may have been injured but if he is even 80% fit then he should surely start in attack.
Tonight’s crunch game against Liverpool, another team whose defensive frailties have been highlighted during the season. A loss on could even put Liverpool in the frame for a 3rd place finish. The mid-week clash is a crucial game for both teams and their respective season’s. I’m sure everybody in the Premier League will be looking on in interest to see how it pans out.