Arsenal’s weakness is being exploited

Arsenal has a genuine problem with more physical teams. To see Robin Van Persie get rattled by Sheffield United’s John Morgan was to see a clinic in effective intimidation. In fact, the Blades defenders physical shadowing of the Arsenal attack pushed Tomas Rosicky into hasty and inaccurate passes. Rosicky was made irrelevant. Arsenal relies on one touch short passes to keep the flow. They make passes projected on where the player will be. This sort of anticipatory soccer relies entirely on timing and space. The Blades were so effective in denying space to the Arsenal attack crowding out the supply lanes that Arsenal was forced to play a far more up tempo game than they usually do. The game opened up with Cesc Fabregas substituting Hoyte but some great emergency goalkeeping by Phil Jagielka kept the Gunners away. The familiar pattern of too many passes in the box again proved Arsenal’s undoing. It was strange but there was no player who wanted to have a go at goal. Arsenal blinked a lot in this match being pushed and crowded away from the ball. However, as poorly as Arsenal played, the Blades played a superb match.
This weakness is being picked up by the teams throughout the Premiership. It is not just Bolton that physically punishes Arsenal. Arsenal digs itself into a hole by falling behind and then has to pull out a win in the second half or eke out a draw. Sometimes the effort is not enough as proven by losses to West Ham, Fulham, and now Sheffield Utd.
Arsenal’s inconsistency is a reflection of the relative youth and inexperience of its players and no doubt this team will be ready in a year or two to challenge for the title but Wenger should make this game about relying on goal attempts. For that you have to have players who show some hustle and initiative.

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