Sudoku: A cheap way to help improve Arsenal’s lack of concentration
That is the adage. On the ropes, manager a drink short of delirium tremens, disgruntled fans baying for the management’s blood. No matter. Mother Nature has the cure. Play Arsenal and everything will be right as rain. For Steve McKean, the positive result against a Champions League level club is a lifesaver. Other managers face a more obvious quandary. How much further can one claim victory against Arsenal as a lustrous event as they become all too frequent?
The mind numbing tedium of Arsenal’s defensive woes copy and pasted for the nth time pushed to the backdrop the uplifting spectacle of a Marouane Chamakh goal. In the real world this would have been enough for a round of toasts. But every little nugget of good news we hold onto seems to make stronger the currents of dysfunctionality threatening to submerge the season. Arsene Wenger after the match:
“It is terrible, it is just not good enough. Of course we are very frustrated, the spirit in the team is quite willing but if you look at the number of goals we have conceded that is not good enough.”
” Overall we created many chances, even in the second half but we had a lack of focus on what we knew they were strong at – corners, free-kicks.”
This is the analysis of a manager paid excellent money! On the defensive front, we’ve now gone through a lack of height, the inability to predict a ball’s trajectory, settling on a lack of focus to account for our haplessness. We’ve now have height, zonal marking should allow us to follow the ball, and yet again we’re back to square one. This is Blackburn. Set piece central. Not one year ago, Lukasz Fabianski was panicked into flailing and flopping at every corner after Chris Samba and Co. deliberately set about painting him into the goal line. We whined about foul play but it set off a copy cat rash of the same tactics. Why abandon a strategy that works like a charm?
Arsenal is being run increasingly like some Harvard Business Review accolade on financial stewardship. Away from that ivory tower and onto the pitch there is a huge disconnect. We’ve been impoverished by a reactive mindset that has been caught short from Fabregas to the actual tactics that dictate the game. There is no forward thinking anymore. It’s something to chew on that a manager famous for using Moneyball like stats to squeeze every ounce of quality from his players is being forced repeatedly into concession speeches. There was no mystery to what Blackburn would do so why was there a lack of focus?
Without Thomas Vermaelen and Bakary Sagna there is very little organization at the back. Arsenal’s has to play the margins with such a high line when a counterattack is launched. There is every danger of losing defensive shape when forced to cover such large swathes of exposed territory. Both Johan Djourou and Laurent Kosicielny have not shown the necessary anticipation or discipline. Per Mertesacker and Andre Dos Santos are still learning the ropes in a new system. Much of the second half damage was done by defensive speculation and lack of composure.
At this point playing a two holding midfielder set could be explored. A deeper line might help Arsenal afford more time to rebut counterattacks. Whatever it is giving up four goals to Blackburn and adding to a burgeoning negative goal differential is grievously wounding our chances of staying competitive. This is turning out to be Wenger’s most difficult season but a large part of it is his own doing.