Chelsea loss a case of déjà vu or a contrast in tactical flexibility?

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One of the comments that sparked my interest in the fallout from Arsenal’s 2-0 loss to Chelsea was made by Arsene Wenger.

Asked to give his thoughts on the game, as he always is, the manager was quick to shoot down a question suggesting that the manner of the defeat was all too similar to previous games against Chelsea. He responded with the following statement:

“People will say [that it is déjà vu] but I don’t feel that. I feel the two teams are really close. We have to give Chelsea credit today because they took advantage up front. They were much more clinical. But the game should have been over before it had started – we had the first two chances in the first minute and I don’t know how we missed that header from six yards. We had the chances today. But when you have the chances we had you need to score.”

The first instinct to compare Sunday’s defeat with others to Chelsea is understandable: as Michael Cox from Zonal Marking astutely pointed out Didier Drogba was the familiar scorer, Ashley Cole was a familiar provider and our tendency to concede too many dangerous free-kicks late in games in order to break up the opposition counter-attacks was punished again.

Another perspective on the game is that Wenger was outcoached on the day by Carlo Ancelotti, who sent his team out to allow us possession, get behind the ball and hit them on the break. It is a tactic Manchester United have used a lot in recent seasons and is based on the principle that we will eventually run out of ideas and shoot ourselves in our foot defensively, allowing the opposition to score.

The Arsenal v Chelsea line-ups courtesy of Zonal Marking

In the first instant I don’t believe Chelsea set out specifically to counter-attack Arsenal. I believe they genuinely wanted to have possession, as they usually do at home, but were out-fought and out-passed in the midfield by Alex Song, Jack Wilshere and the more advanced Abou Diaby.

But the problem for Arsenal came when Chelsea identified their predicament, adjusted to the situation and effectively changed the way they played. You don’t end up with a goal difference of +21 after 7 rounds by playing counter-attacking football every week, but the league champions showed that under certain circumstances they are as good as any at making it work.

So while Wenger’s comment about the teams being close is quite correct it is the ability for Chelsea to be flexible with their tactical approach that proved significant.

In saying that I don’t believe that Wenger is tactically inflexible, just that Chelsea and indeed Ancelotti is more flexible.

As I mentioned yesterday I am a firm believer that we do not lack an offensive Plan B, particularly with the signing of Chamakh and the variety of strikers at our disposal. At no point against Chelsea did we run out of ideas to score – we created opportunities evenly throughout the match – and that is a very encouraging sign.

With our next game against Birmingham not until the 16th of October, Wenger has plenty of time to review the Chelsea game and make the appropriate observations as to what went right and what went wrong. Several of the injured players – Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas among them – will be available again and at this early stage of the season seven points is not an insurmountable gap.

Let’s just hope the players who do go out on international duty, including the soon-to-be-capped Wilshere, one of the players who has improved Arsenal’s tactically flexibility this season, come back fighting fit.


Have your say on Arsenal v Chelsea déjà vu by leaving a comment.


46 thoughts on “Chelsea loss a case of déjà vu or a contrast in tactical flexibility?

  1. So tactically speaking how did Chelsea change their game? I think you are right but you don’t really go into any further detail. It’s like Wenger saying an opponent played well but not learning anything about why they won and making exactly the same mistakes months later. Were we outflanked, as many observers claim? How do we change things? Wenger is accused of being tactically naive by some and sticking rigidly to his principles of total attacking football. Do you think they have a point?

  2. I don’t get this thing of allowing possession. Someone explain to me what this means. Would Bolton, or even Villa have dominated possession against Chelsea? Absolutely not. Arsenal dominated possession because they imposed their own will on the game. You can say Chelsea are content to sit back and defend with 9 men behind the ball. Fair enough. But we pinned them back. If we didn’t pin them back they’d have had more of the possession, and would probably have scored more goals.

    Zonal marking claims Chelsea defended very well. I watched that game again yesterday and we cut them apart at will. The tragedy of the game is that, despite getting behind their defence, playing 3 different players through 4 different times, we didn’t breach their defence. Ultimately, that wasn’t good enough. But the notion of Chelsea’s tactical or defensive masterclass is a myth.

    Focusing on how Cole got behind us, doesn’t mean we defended that situation particularly badly. You could blame Koscielny for allowing Drogba get to the ball ahead of him, but on the other hand, apart from that extraordinary goal, Drogba wasn’t very likely to score from that situation.

    What should worry Wenger is how many times our brilliant play broke down at the final ball. Chamakh playing a poor poor pass when he’d have put Nasri through on goal. Chamakh miscontrolling when put through on goal. Chamakh getting his body position wrong, and being too slow to turn and get on the ball when Nasri put him through. Diaby shooting when a pass to Wilshere would have put him through, Nasri blocking Diaby’s path in the same move instead of blocking off Terry or making the run that would have taken Terry out (Terry ultimately blocked the shot). Vela getting the ball stuck under his feet when put through. These were all times when we cut Chelsea open easily. Quite easily.

    What would have been reassuring for Wenger is that if we play like that we will win 9 times out of 10.

    Part of the difference between Chelsea and Arsenal in these situations is reinforcement. Arsenal play well, lose and get pasted. Chelsea play worse than Arsenal, win and get praised. But even if Chelsea lost they won’t have gotten the same level of vitriolic criticism. An Arsenal loss leads to every single thing being questioned. Their quality, their attitude, their mentality, their tactics. Chelsea lose, they get pasted on the back pages for 3 days and then the media crawl back up their arses.

  3. Interesting analysis. Before I read this, I would have said that it was Arsenal who had changed their tactics and Chelsea were um Chelsea as per usual. Last season, we were guilty of passing the ball around the edge of the 18 yard box and being hit on the break when we lost posession. What I saw on the weekend was an Arsenal side that was a lot more direct in attack, i.e. through balls on the deck, crosses into Chamakh and Arsharvin unleashing shots from the edge of the 18 yard box. Compare this with the away fixture last year and I was satisfied that they went down fighting.
    P.S. Drogba’s goal was a fluke and we were fouled from behind in the leadup. One of many foul tackles from behind

  4. Teams like Chelsea, Man U have this tendency to defend deep and go for counterattacks against Arsenal. And during such matches it feels like Arsenal is the only team who wants to score goals but suddenly caught on a quick counter attack at the back. This is because of the predictability of Arsene’s approach playing against these teams.
    If you look at Barcelona at first it seems like they also like playing football the same way day in and day out but they have players like Messi, Iniesta etc. who can break opposition defense on their own. Against them many teams try sitting deep and attack them on counter but few succeed in breaking them down because of the way they work after loosing the ball and their tendency to pass the ball backwards if suitable opportunity is not there.
    I think Arsenal is lacking in those points because both the goals against Chelsea was conceded someway or the other because of unwillingness of players to backtrack Chelsea players and to go for the killer pass which was not there most of the times (and same old story eventually we lost the ball and caught on counter attack). Not to mention fullbacks are really important in modern game both defensively and offensively but we are lacking at this area (Clichy’s crossing was awful). remember the time when cole-pires-henry partnership was so feared all around the Europe I think Arsenal need something like that again if Wenger wants to go back to winning ways.

  5. I agree with Ole Gunner. The notion of Chelsea’s defensive masterclass is a myth. Not just in the match against us. Even in the match against Wigan, which they ended up winning 6-0, and in the weeks since, Chelsea tend to defend very deep and make last ditch blocks or tackles, which the media praises as brilliant.If it were Arsenal it would be called as panicky defending. The thing is though, that Chelsea have earned that right (through results and also through buying expensive players, which the media loves) Its working for them at the moment but it’s bound to catch up with them sometime.

    Pity WE couldn’t make them pay though. No amount of tactics, no matter how brilliant, can get the ball into the back of the net. Why would we have changed our tactics? we were bossing the game and creating chances.. 2 things though. Nasri didn’t track back for the 1st goal. and we left a gap in the wall for the 2nd. Both very annoying lapses mainly because we tend to repeat them.Also, Arshavin is a real conundrum. Does he add enough value for all the lazy passes and his refusal to track back? I’m not so sure.

  6. I’m not worry if Arsenal perform like against chelsea week in week out, but very worry when they play like against west brom. No urgency and desire. It shouldn’t be a problem if Arsenal is more consistent and clinical. We kinda miss Henry now.

  7. “In the first instant I don’t believe Chelsea set out specifically to counter-attack Arsenal. I believe they genuinely wanted to have possession, as they usually do at home, but were out-fought and out-passed in the midfield by Alex Song, Jack Wilshere and the more advanced Abou Diaby.”

    Not so sure about that, when we visited them in February, we saw lots of the ball again, more than them, they were very content to wait and hit us, if that tactic worked before, and the circumstances were the same on Sunday as in February, what tactician would deviate from that plan that worked so well? This is what Chelsea do, especially against teams that can manipulate the ball better than them, they sit back and hit counter attack. Nothing negative on that front, especially as it targets the weakness of the opponent.

    Also saying you don’t think Wenger is inflexible? Not trying to bash you or our club, but how many matches have we lost due to bad tactics and ingame changes? We went to Barca and played an open system that was suicide, if we were flexible, we would have changed up and been more solid, but Wenger doesn’t change. Both Chelsea games, we played the same way and lost the same way, vs Utd, we never changed at Emirates once they went ahead.

    I think Wenger needs to make big decisions, even now, a tactics coach to help him, and a defensive coach. These are issues we have that kill us time and time again.

    Also Wenger rarely admits defeat, even after Barca slaughtered us, he never acknowledged his mistakes, Fergie admits them and tries not to make the same mistake again, Wenger makes them time and time again.

  8. Also just a small comment, instead of deriding Chelsea like Ole Gunner, lets learn from them, our plan failed, so doesn’t matter how much we over think or praise our efforts, in these games, it isn’t getting results, I wouldn’t be happy with that to be honest. we lost to the better team who knew how to get the win.

  9. I’m concerned that Wenger is not willing or, maybe able, to play the same players in the same positions for more than one game at a time.

    On Sunday Diaby was asked to play up front and close to Chamakh, against West Brom. it was Song in that position.

    Neither player is even adequate as a second striker.

    Squillaci and Koscielny have played only a handful of Premiership games and can’t be expected to be fully up to the high standard demanded, especially against a top side like Chelsea and one of the best central strikers in the world, namely, Drogba. Most observers agree that it can take half a season for players to come to terms with the pace and physicality of Premiership football..

    I honestly think that Wenger made a mistake in playing Diaby on Sunday, surely a more conservative approach would have been better, Song alongside Denilson would have given more cover to the back four whilst Denilson’s quick passing would have been more effective than Diaby’s dribbling.

    Chamakh has done very well so far this season and has generally fitted in well however, on Sunday he looked a bit tired, probably because he has had to play so any games, also he was up against an exceptional centre back in, Alex, and an experienced one in Terry who makes up for his lack of pace with good positional sense.

    For a team missing three top players in Fabregas, van Persie and Walcott I think Arsenal did pretty well against Chelsea and could, with a bit more composure in front of goal , have come away with at least a point.

    It is reported, at, that Arsenal are preparing a £12.9 million bid for Anderlecht’s young striker Romelu Lukaku. Could this be a sign that Wenger is beginning to lose patience with the perennial injuries to Robin van Persie.

  10. Don’t buy the whole “tactics” argument really. It’s all about who takes their chances. If we’d scored some of our chances and hung on everyone would be saying we went to the Bridge & dominated one of the best teams in Europe. Chelsea did change their game for us which is a sign of how much they respect Arsenal’s possession game.

    We weren’t really caught on the counter which is what Chelsea’s tactics were, we just defended poorly.

  11. What is this all about? I know we still hurting, at least I do, but lets be clear about what we saw last sunday. That we conceded 2 goals out of mistakes than opponents creation should give us reason to be optimistic. A cynic will say its same old Arsenal supporters who are trying to find things that dont exist but since we are Arsenal supporters for ever its either that or death.

    First goal was clearly a foul from behind by Ramires, Scilaci pissed at the idea, naively threw the ball back to Chelsea instead of running back with a ball while organising defence. Chelsea player took a quick free kick and we were cought out by the flukey goal.

    The second was the same naivity of failing to spot that Malouda was a decoy. When he moved the gaping hiole he left behind was where Alex ball went through. Credit to Chelsea but our boys did show some fighting spirit. Not the surrender that once dispirited me.

  12. Well, to be honest Andy, I’m not sure if I believe the whole ‘we have a plan b’ – from what I see against the top teams in the last few years, we don’t. Too often we get bottlenecked by tight defenses, such as Chelsea and United, and seem simply content to pass the ball around the edges 16 yard box – with little penetration.

    Possession is one thing, yes, but we frequently seem unable to capitalise on the possession.

    If there is a plan B, I’m not sure if I’ve seen it.

  13. we lost simply because we failed to make the best with our possesion, and we simply dint open up chelsea’s defence. also we were naive with the freekick that led to the second goal, we lost concntration for the first goal,

  14. All we need is winning goals for Arsenal.Manager,Players & Fans are still eagerly waiting for victories.There is no way to compare French players like Henry.Vierrea & Peires with Sagna.Clichy,Nasri &Chamakh.Will Arsenal need more French players in the future?Let’s consider to cross two great barriers ManU & Chelsea in the upcoming games.

  15. I do not agree that at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea let us have the ball.

    Chelsea’s owner has taken a path of buying his team in the open market, which was not an option for Arsenal. There are Arsenal fans who disagree with the manager and boards decisions, fine.

    Compare the age of both line ups – Arsenal average 3 to 3.5 years younger at every position. This is monumental for football. If you have spent any time in this sport it is common understanding that players don’t reach a level of maturity (of play) until they are 26 yrs of age.

    Chelsea’s average age for Sunday was 28, while Arsenal’s was 25 and had Lampard started instead of Ramires, the avg. would be 29.

    Based on the number of matches our keeper has played, you’d rate him a high risk for this match. Squillaci, Koscielny, and Chamakh are new additions and so they are still crafting a chemistry with teammates. For our style of play, player chemistry is critical. For this match, the deck was stacked against us. Look at our bench, only Rosicky came in and was industrious – Vela and JET, zero impact.

    So the last five years have been frustrating for most Arsenal fans: no silverware, inconsistent play, injuries combined with lack of experienced depth has only fueled frustrations. For me, I can see players making improvement, especially in high profile matches v. previous seasons. Song, Diaby, Theo, Bendtner, Djourou, Denilson are examples. Ramsey, Gibbs, and Wilshere all 21 or under have shown signs of a promising future. The additions this season of Chamakh, Squillaci, and Koscielny ‘will’ provide Arsenal more contributing depth.

    If you have ever raised children, then you understand patience. If not, your expectations need to be re-calibrated.

  16. Interesting analysis, maybe you should watch the repeat of the Chelsea game, all they did was soak up the pressure. I agree they didn’t specifically set up to counter but they wanted Arsenal centre mids to move forward so that they could pump balls over Diaby/song/jack.

    It wasn’t counterattack, it was just simple, brutal, efficient, direct, very fast passing by the so-called retirees of football. First goal was an excellent through pass by Ramires and second was caused by a wayward pass by Nasri.

    Don’t agree with your stance that counterattaks dosen’t give huge goal difference, maybe you forgot something, Arsenal during the undefeated season or during the Viera years was the masters of counterattack and they scored loads. What Chelsea are doing now is reminisce of the old Arsenal.

    Seriously Arsenal never played possesion Barca style, only now, I can bet you that our possesion wasn’t into the 60% during thoses time but rather we were very direct and took almost every chance that we got unlike the current Arsenal now.

    I don’t know what’s the reason, maybe our current players do not have precise finishing simmilar to Henry, Bergkamp, Ljunberg, Pires, Parlour, Reyes or maybe they are instructed to play in a certain style nowadays. The only player that I know that is capable of lethal finishing is RVP and Arshavin.

    I really don’t like to compare the current squad but it seems to me that the some players in the current squad is playing 110% over their ability just to match the top teams in EPL and Europe. Of course I’m just a fan speculating what is actually happening between Wenger and the squad.

  17. I dunno whats going on here, the defeat is still hard to digest, but this a ploy which has been done by Chelsea and Uta from 2 seasons, to hit arsenal on the counter, the last game we won at the bridge when rvp scored 2 goals we were the ones getting dominated then two direct balls to rvp (one of ade’s head) and we were ahead. But this i have gotten used to every time we attacked i was never ever sure we were gonna win till that first goal went in.. and whenever chelsea had the ball it was nervy.. There is really nothing called a plan B and i seriously think we dont require it, dont listen to crap from the media if arsenal had won the game they would have compared the possession and said well if u dont have the ball you wont score, because i have heard this before.

    We were a superb who would counter attack because of the pace up front with the likes Henry, Reyes. Chamakh is slow he will improve that’s for sure, but to repeat what the invincible s did we need wallcott to be as clincal as he was in the beginning of the season.

  18. 1. Chamakh is too slow. Bentner would have done better(he is faster). Walcott would’ve done fantastic.
    2. Wenger should not have played Diaby, what was Rosicky doing on the bench? Song and Wilshere(I just love him) were holding the DM positions why not bring in Rosicky?
    3. We saw what they were trying to do and we still let them. They have 3 very strong speedy finishers, we have a very slow, but good header of the ball as a target man.
    4. Why blame Nasri for squares passes or Arshavin for not tracking back? Where was Song? Why should Nasri remain in the DM position and lay a through pass to Song who couldnt dribble thru? Why was it not the other way round? Have u ever seen Mikel in front of our 20 yard box? NEVER. What is wrong with Song or is it Wenger? We just miss Cesc here, obviously.
    5. Finally, we miss Cesc a lot, he would’ve seen thru the scum’s lazy tactics with some thru balls(we missed those). We also miss RVP, but most especially Walcott(speed).
    Speed alone cannot do the trick, but u can cause problems if ur main striker is speedy….we really really miss this aspect of our game.

  19. it is all easy for armchair critics talk about tactics. Fans are not interested in tactics and what went wrong. They want result and not who dominated or missed opportunities. The simple fact is that chelsea has proved in last five seasons to be better than Arsenal. Majority of the current arsenal players are lightweight and always lose 50-50 balls. Apart from Fabergas there is no quality players in the squad. The team needs at least four or five world class players to win trophies. With the current squad there is no chance of Arsenal will anything again in 2010-2011. Time has come for aw to face the reality that with the likes of second raters almunia, fabianski, diaby, clichy, sagna, denilson, bendtner, vela and squillachi arsenal will always be second best to chelsea, and man united.

  20. 1. Song had a great game. He can’t do everything all the time.

    2. I nearly choked on my tea with the first Fabianski flap…ok beer. Sorry Alan Goat.

    3.Chamakh is fine. Lay off him everyone, he’s going well so far and needs good delivery if he is to achieve the optimum for the team. In terms of too slow, I think there are players that look laconic and he is one of them. Don’t forget he’s tall, good on the ball and strong. Not everyone can be everything. I just hope to the clouds that he gets to show himself with Van Persie around as well. They compliment each other very well.

    4. In following from point 3…Chamakh and Bendtner. No shit, not everyone likes the Dane, but imagine the unpredictable, random power of those two on at once. Let’s hope that Wenger has the balls to do it every once in a while. You can always take one of them off or change things if it doesn’t work out.

    5. Diaby always looks stronger with Fabregas on the field.

    6. Why the fuck do referees never pick up on those terrible challenges against Arsenal that almost seem weekly now??? Do we put ourselves in to the ball at the wrong times?

    7. I’d rather Fabianski (flaps or no flaps (tee hee btw)) than Almunia in the team.

    8. Number 41. Behemoth. Trouble. Awesome. Never heard of him. I think I saw him in defense, midfield and attack all in ten milliseconds. Two strides and he’d taken the pitch.

    9. Our corners are always, always, always, always too relaxed and embellished. Same with our attacking throw-ins. With such heading power and creative flair as we have, it’s a shame.

    10. Chelsea were always going to be powerful, counter attacking or no. They held their nerve well and played to their strengths. Arsenal need to learn how to adapt to a game where they are not in control, which inevitably will happen, even not against the best teams. It was strange to look at the stats at the end of the game and find that Chelsea were equal in everything, if not more dominant. How did that happen?

    Adios and RRRAOOOOOWWWWW!!!!

  21. To be sincere I saw/read/analysed a lot (or at least tried to do so) and I can agree with a lot of things you wrote in this article and the one before. Just one thing that tells you the whole story. I found this article from 2 years ago and I found it very creepy, as most of it is still true. Please read it and tell me what has changed? I think some things did change for the better, some things became worse, but we still have the same areas affected.

    “Three Arsenal weaknesses need correction” (

    “The central defence needs changing” Silvestre and company left (they all failed) and Koscielny, Squilacci came. Koscielny seems to be developing fast enough, but Squilacci is strugling really hard. Djourou is not much better, Clichy (in fact) is going down. Sagna is fiercely criticized by some, but he’s not bad at all as a defender and he’s dilligent at least. His crosses to support the attack are not good though. The only star player we have is Vermaelen. So even the best set of choice is a bit shaky, not mentioning any injuries, especially if it’s Verminator. And what happens if we have 2 injured full backs?

    “The other option is Song of course who I think is the most accomplished of the alternatives but as I have written before I am really enthusiastic about his defensive abilities in midfield rather than in central defense.” Full stop. He’s not a playmaker /as he tried to be this week-end/ and not a defender. Nobody should force either. He’s not in top form now and makes a lot of fouls, but I think he’s still good enough to come back to be useful player.

    “So Arsene Wenger does really need to buy a strong, tall, agile and accomplished central defender to partner Toure.” We still have 2 physically weak central defenders + Djourou though he’s not full back. I think they will improve, but we will lose points until then!!! “Other positions that lack ready made viable deputies are: Goalkeeper” (became worse, though Fabiansky is a bit more stable now) “Central defence (as explained above)” (still not stable enough) “Both central midfield positions (who is really Fabregas’s deputy?)” (good question as I still can’t see any deputy) “At least one of the two wide midfield positions
    The striker come front man position (is Bendtner ready to be as effective as Adebayor? I am assuming that Eduardo returns unscathed and would be vying with Van Persie for the number 10 position).” Bendtner? Really? Where’s he now? He has not played a minute since the world cup. Did he develop anyway? Yes, but was still far from good enough. “Players like Bendtner, Vela, Ramsey, Wilshere and all the others are going to be gracing the Premier (or some other) League in the future.” Bendtner? I don’t think so. Vela hardly ever plays. He’s not developing anymore. Ramsey might be, when he comes back. Wilshere has been the only hit from these of the early season. “Wenger now runs the real danger of imprisoning himself in a football model which could get out of control; where buying more mature players may be seen to infringe on the progress of the young starlets. This however could end up with Arsenal being a nursery for world class talent who once they get disillusioned by the lack of success re emigrate to other clubs.” He already imprisoned himself. No mature players are coming. The only real classy talent Fabregas (RVP is one of them but he’s strugling with injuries, Verminator might also stay, Theo needs to show a bit more consistency and I think will stay for the time being) will go as soon as possible. I’m sure, as he’s disillusioned by the lack of success and I can hardly see us win without a bit more stability. We are really dependent on 3-4 players. The others sometimes shine: Arshavin, Nasri but it’s not always enough, if more of others are missing. Why nobody investigates the injuries? What we have is abnormal. Where is the team spirit sometimes. That’s what happens, when they run a club as a business. Maybe the board is forcing Wenger, maybe not, but I hardly can see why he’s always going for cheap or nothing (GK situation before the season). I don’t want him to go, as we owe him a lot. He’s capable of winning it for sure. He has shown it, but he needs to buy minimum 4 really good players to win big trophies (1 goalkeeper, 1 classy central defender, 1 substitute midfielder /if Fabregas stays, 2 if he goes/, 1 dangerous striker (we can’t wait for RVP all the time, Chamakh is very good to cause chaos and normally for headers&fight, the other striker could be freer to score). This is the very minimum. Plus 1 left back if Clichy is paying more attention to develop. Plan-B. Maybe we have, but it cannot be seen a lot. Maybe the players are not good enough to show it, but I don’t see much variations. If you want to play total football you need top class defenders!!! I love our style, but against really difficult opponents we should change it sometimes. The late substitutions are also annoying. I could go on. We don’t want you to fundamentally change your youth policy and gameplay Mr. Wenger. We love you and respect you, but just if you change some of the players and make some variations in tactics we can win whatever we want. Almunia, Bendtner, Djourou, Diaby, Eboue could go and Clichy, Squilacci and Vela if they don’t prove their worth relatively soon. In Vela’s case he should play to prove it.

  22. By substitute midfielder I meant somebody, who could take over the role from Fabregas, if he’s not in the pitch. Diaby was ok against Celsea, but ok is not enough. We need somebody, who has an impact on the game. Also during the last couple of games he gave away the ball, whenever he had it. One better game is not enough. Same for Clichy. “Clichy is not paying more attention to develop” I meant: Oviously he will not develop, as he’s old enough, but with lots of training/will he could get back to his former, better level. To all the former players I would give one more chance and some more time to the new ones to prove their value and if they cannot do that I would say good-bye. I think that’s fair. They should feel, that a sloppy performance/being lazy on the long run would result in rejection.

  23. I think for tactics he should mix total football (against weaker teams, or if we are winning by 2-3 goal against big teams) with (mainly) counter attack against stronger teams. I can’t see beating Barcelona with a relatively weak defense and an open door policy (total football). Some change in formation and tactics, if our football has no effect, would also be useful. You are right up there, Bendtner might be useful for that.

  24. I agree we need to buy if we want to win something this year; our youth players are not ready yet….we can’t play “the arsenalway” against strong teams (Chelsea,MU,Barça) if we don’t know how to defend!
    Song it’s always alone, he need a partner, Arshavin isn’t inspired (If you don’t wanna play stay in your bed), Nasri and Wilshire are improving well but isn’t enought and we MISS A LOT our brain “Cesc” our killer “RVP” and our “Usain Bolcott”
    Left back: we should (MUST) buy Juan Vargas from Fiorentina this guy is awesome I think he could do a great job; Clichy never gonna be like Cole!
    Goalkeeper: Lloris (Lyon) Romero (AZ) Enyeama (¿?)
    Fellaini – Honda (Gago as a ultimate solution) Navas-Robben (Arsahvin out)
    But there’s a problem Wenger always want french and french players my question: is he trying to build a national french team? Is he trying to do Laurent Blanc’s job?…I always trust in Wenger but he really need to open his eyes NOW.

  25. He needs to give up the French majority, as the really talented generation of French players is over. If somebody is good, then he can come though. There’s one thing for sure. He’s discovered some really useful players, but we have less classy players nowadays. That’s a fact.

    Goalkeepers: Almunia needs to go; he’s not willing to be the second GK and he can’t handle the pressure; if Fabianski plays like in the last two games he can be second GK

    Verdict: We need a better keeper (like you mentioned Lloris (Lyon) Romero (AZ) Enyeama (Hapoel Tel Aviv)), but Eduardo Carvalho and Fernando Muslera look good too and I highly doubt they are so expensive. Wenger missed the chance to buy Eduardo, who was not so expensive at all!!!!

    Defenders: Vermaelen is excellent, Sagna needs to work a bit harder and can stay, Koscielny is developing well and can be a good substitute for a few matches if somebody’s missing/injured in the future, but we need one more full back anyway (if we have one more injury who will play there? Song?) and then he should be better/experienced player, than him!!!, Gibbs should take over from Clichy

    Squilacci needs to work harder and develop faster or he needs to go, but he might make a good substitute in the future (???) let’s give him some time, Djourou is not good enough, Clichy is supposed to be in his prime, but he’s being much worse, than before; he will not be Cole and if not improving he needs to go/should be a substitute by now, Traore (is he any good? If not he needs to go as well)

    Verdict: We need minimum 1 experienced full back, but 1 better right and 1 better left back would be good too (instead of Djourou and Clichy)

    Midfield: Diaby is not good enough, some defended him for the Chelsea match, ok game is not good enough as we need somebody to substitute/aid Fabregas as a deputy (playmaker), he’s not good for that, Eboue likewise, Nasri, Rosicky and Arshavin are ok as useful/good players, but they need to work harder (especially Arshavin, who’s sometimes brilliant, sometimes looks lazy), Song needs to concentrate more, make less fouls and play his defensive midfielder role, Jack is excellent, but he’s not a playmaker (yet???), Denilson should be more involved (no opinion), Ramsey is the future and can be good, deserves a chance

    Verdict: We need minimum an extra playmaker and a possible backup for Song; Fabregas might stay only if we buy some more classy players. Why would he stay if we don’t have enough classy players to have a consistently good team, if 3-4 key players are missing? We could only win a trophy with the present team, if Fabianski maintains form and Fabregas, RVP, Walcott and Vermaelen are all playing. We all know it’s a dream on the long run. So as I said we need 3-4 more classy players to relieve the pressure and have enough of them in the pitch if we have some injuries.

    Strikers: Walcott looks excellent and hopefully will be more consistent, RVP is excellent but often injured (if he keeps doing that for most of the matches he needs to go; it hurts to say it, as he’s my biggest favourite), Chamakh is a useful diversion player/fighter, excellent workrate (a really good buy), we need his possible headers as well (I’m sure he will improve), but he has never been a prolific goalscorer/that’s not his role, Bendtner is not so bad as some say, but he should substitute RVP and he’s not good for that, plus he’s not so versatile, than the others, so he can be maximum a good substitute or he needs to go, Vela needs to play more and if he’ not good enough, he might need to go

    Verdict: Though Bendtner and Chamakh can be good to improve our tactical options we need somebody to play if RVP is out injured

    With some rotation using our better players for the tougher matches and giving one of them a relief sometimes (mixing A and B team players for easier matches and using only the B team!!!!) the system would work.

  26. Oh the despair! The agony! The torture!

    On a serious level are things really that bad?

    Blimey the way some people are going on I’d have thought that the world was just about to end.

    Of course yesterday was frustrating and disappointing but take a reality check!

    We have just lost to the champions, worthy champions at that, on their home turf. No disgrace for anyone.

    In fact, I’m proud of the way the boys played and proud of the fact that Chelsea, the champions, completely changed their usual pattern of play just to deal with us.

    How often do you see Chelsea put ten men behind the ball, for the most part of 90 minutes, at home? I guarantee you will not see them play like that at home again this season.

    At the end of the day, in my opinion, Arsenal are the better side. Yes, I said it, better than Chelsea. BUT, and there is a but, Chelsea are miles ahead of us tactically.

    Obviously Arsene Wenger needs to learn how to beat Chelsea again, he used to be able to, but I really think a big factor in the defeat was the choice of players available.

    Don’t get me wrong, I hate to use injured players as an excuse, but we lacked a cutting edge and I have no doubt that had Cesc, RVP and Walcott been available we would have won yesterday.

    The game was made for van Persie and especially Cesc Fabregas. A game where you have so much possession needs a cutting edge. Those two would definitely have provided that.

    Things aren’t as bad as they might seem and Arsenal are certainly not as bad as people are suggesting!

    The title isn’t decided in October. True, we aren’t in the position we’d like to be but I’m sure we will still compete for the championship.

    Look at it this way, things could be worse. We could be in Liverpool’s position.

  27. Nobody said we are so bad!!! We have a good team, but as I said if we want to have a good chance to win the PL (especially the Champions League) we need 3-4 experienced players to make sure we have a second RVP (who has a big impact on the game, good at set pieces and very dangerous in front of the goal), a second Cesc (who can give balls to the others to score or can score himself), another defender to avoid having two rookies in the back, especially poor Squilacci (he needs to learn a lot more than Koscielny and some people already call him fucking; it’s not his fault) and a goalkeeper (now I prefer Fabianki to Almunia, anyway I think Almunia will go if if he’s the 2nd GK and he’s had so many chances to prove himself; I defended him for a very long time against my friends opinion until his last match, but now I’m also fed up with him; I think he’s a good GK /which would be enough to win titles/, but with totally shredded self confidence’ I don’t think he’s useful anymore). As I said we don’t seem to have proper tactics against the big teams. I think it’s a realistic picture, not a negative one. We’ve had the same problem for years. It’s time Arsene learn from it. He’s a very good manager and he can do it.

  28. I think Arsenal will need to win these big games to realistic have any chance of winning the premier league. Winning against good quality opponents away from home brings confidence. It can’t rely on other teams or hope that the likes of Chelsea and or Manchester United will falter. Both Manchester and Chelsea have enough quality players to win the league.

    Looking at our players, it baffles me as to why we succumbed to the top teams so easily. Our list of players is far superior then other teams. We have young but talent players. As far as experience is concern, I think our young players have played enough games and have competed both in Europe and internationally to overcome any situation. What we need to do is harden up a touch. The players need to look back at the likes of Patrick Vieira who although at times went over the top, always made his presence felt. Playing attractive football won’t always win you games.

  29. Big games are not all the season (but it’s truth that win big games brings you more confidence..)
    little and “easy” games makes the difference if you want to win the Premier I mean we can lose against MU, Chelsea (Hope don’t happen) but Sunderland? Wigan? WBA? are 3 points games (in teory)
    It’s all about the players and their confidence? or it’s all about tactical desitions? I think are the both…we aren’s bad (look Liverpool) but we have a “minicrisis” year after year: We play attractive football BUT we don’t score GOALS! (Let’s call this the “Gunner’s syndrome”) we play beatiful BUT WE NEED TO BE MORE EFFECTIVE SCORING GOALS and especially LEARN HOW TO DEFEND.
    We need to LEARN from every game we lost, tie or win…same mistakes over and over and over again (we can’t hold 1-0 in our favor/dismissed goal chances/rivals plays always in contraattasck and damage us a lot) makes me think we don’t learn nothing yet

  30. After the loss against Chelsea, most of us would be wondering on how we could close the 7 point gap or more importantly whether we could win the title this year. It’s too early in the season to answer this question but its always in the beginning of the season where we set our targets.

    So what should be our target to win the league?? Is it that beating Chelsea and United is good enough to make us win the title?? Bcoz I remember couple of season ago where we beat both United and Chelsea but still could not win the title. Certainly, we have to beat both of them atleast once to show our true title credentials but with the constant injury troubles hovering over our team, we shouldn’t expect our reserve team to beat an always fit Chelsea or United team.

    So can we win the title even if we cant beat Chelsea or United?? And I believe the answer is ‘Yes’. It will certainly be difficult but its highly possible. A league championship is more like a marathon race, instead sprint. It doesn’t matter how you perform against specific teams or how good our start is. Its all about ‘Consistency’. And I’ve heard Lord Wenger advocate this word more than anyone else.

    So what is it that should be done?? We as fans always look at the points and numbers on the table to see how we stand, so I think its important to keep a certain number of points as our target.

    So how many points would be sufficient to win this league?? 80?? 90?? 100?? We have won the league with points as low as 78. Our Invincible season saw us winning the league with 90 points. And the Mourinho season for Chelsea have saw them winning by 95 points. But if we look at past decade of the league, you’ll see the the average points for winning the title has been 88. But overall, to be on the safe side, I believe that the target has to be 90 points. And the most logical and realistic way to achieve this is by the following numbers:

    28 6 4 90

    This is what we should aim for this season when we look at the league table.

    28 wins, 6 draws, 4 losses, 90 points!!

    Now that’s something I’d like to see beside Arsenal’s name on the table, regardless we win the league or not. Speaking of which, every time a team has reached 90 points in EPL, that team has won the title.

    Now, technically speaking, it is still quite possible to do this even though we had a bad start. But we do have some hard work and I think its time we start winning big against teams that we never thought we would lose against.

    First, talking about our losses. Having only 4 losses seems tough, especially when we are playing in the toughest league in the universe. But we have the history with us to go through the entire season without a defeat. So its possible by our standards. Looking at our current season, it is just 7 games in and we already have 2 losses – Chelsea and West Brom. So who can we expect to lose against in the remaining fixtures?? United at old Trafford perhaps and maybe even Man City at Eastlands. So that would fill up our quota for the loss for this season.

    Then coming on to the 6 draws. We already have 2 draws – Liverpool and Sunderland. It would have been nice if we had beaten Sunderland. But its still acceptable. Now whom can be draw against? The obvious ones that come in my mind are Chelsea at Emirates and United too at Emirates?

    I know many fans, at this point, will think that I”m being an idiot suggesting that we cant beat Chelsea or United at home. But just think what will happen if we have another string of injuries and then again face Chelsea or United with our reserve team. I really believe that even with our reserve team we can draw against Chelsea and United at home.

    That leads to the last 2 games to draw. Who do you think it could be? It certainly has to be some away fixture. We do have some pretty tough away fixtures left – Fulham, Spurs, Stoke, Everton, Birmingham, Bolton. Maybe even include Wolves in this list (you can never know what would be the injury list after this match). But we can only allow 2 of them to get a draw and looking at last year’s and this year’s performances, I’d say that the 2 teams would be Spurs and maybe Fulham.

    So what can we conclude from this? I’m not saying that we will lose against United at Old Trafford or that we cant beat Chelsea or United this year. All I’m trying to say is that we don’t lose our title hopes just because we cant beat these guys with our half of 1st team injured. We don’t need to beat them to win the league.

    As Lord Wenger would say, the match against Chelsea is never decisive in the title race. But what we need is ‘Consistency’. Its not the matches against United Or Chelsea that determines our title hopes, but rather its our matches against other teams that will decide. The way we will be remembered to win the league by beating Chelsea and United, the same way we’ll be remembered for losing the title by losing against teams like West Brom or Wigan or Blackburn.

    This makes me feel more bad that we lost one game to West Brom because these teams, however well they play, should never be allowed to beat us. I believe that even our reserve team have enough of quality to beat West Brom or any team from the bottom half of the table. We can’t do much about that result now but we have to learn from our mistakes. We had the easiest run in for the final 7-8 games for last season and yet we lost a couple of games in them.

    Now is the time for us to show our dominance against these weaker teams. I think we should perform in the same way as we performed against Blackpool. No-nonsense game, full domination and full control from start to finish, taking our chances and making quick decisions when it comes to passes and shots. We cant expect the team to open up their defences to let us in, instead we have to force open their defence. And we already know that playing neatly or dominating the whole game doesn’t mean that we win. We have to score goals to win. When I say we win the game by scoring, it should be that we win with a margin of a least 2 or 3 goals. Because I really don’t want our team to soak up all the pressure in the final 10 minutes when we are 1-0 up.

    Coming back to our targets, i think our team has to step up a level now. Looking in to our future fixtures, I can see the Man City away game in on Oct 24 as a game which we have to win even though I put this game as loss in our targets. Also the November fixtures also look like a headache because we have 7 games in the span of 22 days, out of which 5 are away games including Everton, Wolves and Villa and 1 home game is against Spurs. We can’t afford to lose any games from this. In fact we cant even afford to draw against any of them. All these games have to be won if we want to win the league.

    On a more positive note, we can expect Cesc, Van Persie, Walcott and Vermaelen back by then. Hopefully they’ll be back by the City game because we can win against any team with our actual 1st team. More importantly, we showed that our reserves too can match up against a team like Chelsea at Stamford bridge, though they came up short. So overall I still have lots of confidence in our team. What we have to avoid is to drop points against anyone below us in the league and also put a stop on our injury list. For many years we’ve seen our best players getting injured for a massive part of the season. Now its has to stop. We’ve already suffered the impact of injuries this season. Hopefully, this should end soon and then I can see our team play with the same flair and finishing that we started this season with.

    Keep the faith fellow Gooners!!

  31. Basically, what this all comes down to is the loss of Fabregas, van Persie, and to a lesser extent, Walcott. Those players, especially Cesc, are the heart of the team, and the fact that were were able to hang with and come close to scoring multiple times against Chelsea speak volumes about the quality of our squad. I sincerely believe if those three (Cesc mainly) were in the starting XI, we would have at least scored a goal, and won about 55% of the time. Maybe it’s just misplaced Gunner pride, who knows.

  32. “Maybe it’s just misplaced Gunner pride, who knows.” No. It’s not a misplaced pride. A team that can KO the best portuguese teams is a really good team!!! Don’t underestimate Porto and Braga. It’s like beating Everton, Aston Villa and Tottenham by 5-6 goals. Also everybody admits that we play a beautiful football. If only Vermealen had been playing he most probably could have blocked Drogba’s shot. Even Squilacci was close to that. Alex probably could not have scored, if they set up the defense properly before the free kick. They let a Chelsea player to be a part in our wall and the ball came through there. Push the bloody guy out and be more agressive (in the positive way)!!!! Anelka’s chance also came through Squilacci’s fault. So having Vermaelen or an adequate substitute instead of Squilacci means we concede 0 or 1 goal. Having only Cesc in addition means we could have scored at least 1 goal in my opinion. Just watch the way he plays, he hardly ever has a bad day and can distribute leathal balls all the time. That’s a fact, that even outsiders admit. With only these 2 key players it could have been a draw or a close win for us even with our style!!! And if we have RVP (or an in form Theo), then it’s more likely a win, than a draw!!! So we have a good first team with other very useful players. Even a Chelsea, Man U don’t have a lot more key players, than us!!! They are just not so often injured. Not everybody is a Drogba there either!!! As I said we just need those 3-4 extra good players to make sure we have an experienced full back and a playmaker in the pitch at all time and a good striker with a good goalkeeper if possible (I don’t mind if Fabianski is playing if he can play like in his last two matches). Is it really so much to ask? If we sell/let go some of the less useful players, it’s not necessarily a huge loss and in the long run would not affect our treasury so badly (even a one off 30-40 million minus selling 3-4 players for much less is not a catastrophy and next year we don’t make 56 million profit just 50 million, so what; plus we receive more monetary bonus for the better performance). We don’t need Cristiano Ronaldo calibre players and Wenger can discover new Mesut Ozils as well (CONSISTENT, young talented and relatively cheap players). This with a minimum tactical variation and we can win big titles with an amazing chance. So come on Arsene, come on Arsenal.

  33. the loss again chelsea just another defeat for us…inprovement is needed so dont blame wenger or the squard…we must support our team…

  34. Criticism and love are not contradictory. We would not write here, if we did not love our team. I’m sure there will be improvement and we have some better games coming, as most of our key players will be available for the next match. Deep inside I still hope, that we will be champions. Hope. For the time being that’s what we have and don’t worry many of us (including me) will visit the matches to support the team.

  35. I am not an expert in this case.. But not buying a goalkeeper in the whole of the summer is a poor,poor decision. The defense is not strengthened either. Vermaelen is the best defender that we have. Koscielny and Squillaci may be shrewd buys [considering the fact that they were bought for relatively lesser amount of money] but they are not of premier league stature. They may be good and also hard-working but not even one of the arsenal defenders is world-class. For all the beautiful football that we play, defense is the statistic that wins you the titles. Those clean-sheets and victories in away games always matter. Now, for not buying a keeper and the defense being so weak, we are bound to pay for this [unless, of course something happens in the January transfer window]. I can foresee us going the same way as last year which should not happen. However, all these are my views and my opinions. Correct me if I am wrong.

  36. GunnerBoss i completely agree with ur earlier comment, think we really need a pacy finisher like aguero or suarez or something for these type of games against older defenses. thought we played well in general and everyone whose hating on arsh have little knowledge of the sport, he was one of our best performers and played his position very well, should’ve scored. haters will keep hating but I really like this blog cause of the lack of generic doomer comment. I like the rationality and positivity and really wish more “fans” were like u guys, not a bunch of trolls spewing arsene-out type vitriol.

  37. Arshavin’s a very good player and a very good addition to the team, but could work a bit harder in certain matches. Why is that so spectacular? Because we want him brilliant all the time. It’s not only my or my friends’ opinion, but even on Arsenal TV they said it. He is brilliant in 2 matches and less brilliant in another. Still nobody said he’s not a good player. He’s much better than many other players in the team. Yes he had the biggest chance to score against Chelsea. So don’t get upset. If you meat some trolls ignore them and think of the statistics. They sold a lot of shirts with his name in the UK. Only Cesc was better from Arsenal.

    Top 10 names printed on shirts 2009/10 Season

    1. Torres
    2. Gerrard
    3. Rooney
    4. Fabregas
    5. Arshavin
    6. Lampard
    7. Drogba
    8. Owen
    9. Carragher
    10. Tevez

    The real supporters know he’s a really good player. Those who say Wenger out are “fashion supporters”. He could have gotten us within the top 4 with relatively weak squads. I really doubt that a Mourinho, Ancelotti could do that. With them we would be more like Liverpool now. Though I admit I feel sorry for Roy. I don’t think it’s only his fault.

  38. Totally agree with you Carlos. Especially the post following mine, but if the rumors of Stecklenburg come to pass (and it will be quite hard to acquire him since Man U will be reaching into their endless pockets to replace van der Sar), it is just one of the final pieces to a fantastic puzzle (if healthy) the Gunners have.

  39. haha your post makes remember me of funny thing my lad got involved in, she stepped in to soaked hanckerchief, screemed “craaaaaaa*” and fell down… and food flew to shirt of by stander, this happened at our work hehe…

    Well story short, you have written quite good article, makes me smile.

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