What has pre-season taught us about Arsenal?

Posted on Posted in Archives

Will there be bigger success to come this season?Arsenal ready for the new season

Another pre-season tournament, another trophy. But apart from the silverware, what can supporters take away from Arsenal’s Emirates Cup and Amsterdam Tournament successes? What clues has manager Arsene Wenger given us about how the team will play going into next season? I’ve highlighted some important points to take away from what has been a fascinating pre-season at the Arsenal Football Club.

Clichy holds the key to Arsenal’s structure

Make no mistake, Gael Clichy will be more important to Arsenal than any other left-back in the Premiership will be to their respective club. Manager Arsene Wenger seems to have settled on a virtual 4-5-1 formation for the side going into the new season but the roles of the left and right-sided midfielders could not be more contrasting. Whilst Emmanuel Eboue or Theo Walcott will play more like an out-and-out winger down the right, looking to push wide and receive defensive support from Bacary Sagna – the left side of midfield will function in an entirely different manner. With a lack of left-footed players in the squad, Wenger wilClichy looks in phenomenal form going into the new seasonl look to deploy either Tomas Rosicky or Alexander Hleb on the left and it is because of this that Clichy is so important.

The Frenchman’s remarkable stamina and determination means that he is able to tear up and down the left side and act as a virtual winger when Arsenal goes into attack and a full-back when they are under the pump. Clichy allows players like Rosicky and Hleb to play where they are more dangerous – centrally – by providing the width on the left side of the park. Just as Daniel Alves has revolutionised the right-back position at Spanish club Sevilla, Clichy looks set to do the same with Arsenal. His assists for Niklas Bendtner and Robin van Persie against PSG and Ajax respectively gave a taste of what he can provide from this position. That, along with his improved defensive abilities underline his newfound importance to the team.

Wenger has a ‘Plan B’

There’s no question that in previous seasons Arsenal have been criticised for their one-dimensional attacking play. When things go well Wenger’s side look like world-beaters, tearing apart opposition teams with free-flowing, attacking football. When things don’t go so well, Arsenal’s attacking ability seems to hit a brick wall and so often their defensive opponents will snatch a draw or even sneak a win. It is a relief  that Wenger has finally come to grips with the fact that Arsenal have lacked variety in attack and has altered his squad to ensure they are capable of dealing with the differing styles of their opponents.

Van Persie is a player who will start every big game but it is the manner in which he can now be supported that is encouraging for Arsenal. Whereas previously the side relied on ex-captainBendtner is very much part of Wenger’s ‘Plan B’ Thierry Henry to get the goals in a very particular manner, Arsenal is now equipped with attackers who can get them in a variety of ways. Eduardo da Silva has been brought to the club with a reputation as a penalty area poacher and Niklas Bendtner provides a physical presence up front that Wenger’s side has always lacked. The fact that both of these players scored from corners during pre-season is even more encouraging. One mustn’t forget Emmanuel Adebayor either, a player who has an ability to lead the line on his own and really take games by the scruff of the neck. If he can improve his finishing ability then he has every chance of scoring over 15 goals next season.

Perhaps the most interesting change to Arsenal’s attacking shape has been Wenger’s choice to use of Alexander Hleb in a more central role. When Hleb arrived at Arsenal from German club Stuttgart he came with the reputation of being able to create space with his amazing dribbling when attacking through the middle of the pitch. In hindsight, it seems unfair that Hleb has received so much criticism for failing to do so when Wenger has consistently played in a restricted position on the right. Wenger seems to have realised his mistake and played the Belarussian as a support striker or a left-sided midfielder to devastating success during pre-season. In van Persie, Eduardo, Bendtner, Adebayor and now Hleb, Arsenal have a variety of ways to trouble their opponents next season. Wenger doesn’t just have a ‘Plan B’, he seems to have a ‘Plan C’ as well.

Gallas and Toure can play together

There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that individually, William Gallas and Kolo Toure are exceptional footballers. Both possess the attributes necessary to succeed as a modern-day defender; pace, a good ability to read the game and the ability to be comfortable with the ball at their feet. But when Toure and Gallas have played together at the centre of Arsenal’s defence the two have preWilliam Gallas has finally showed he can play together with Kolo Toureviously struggled to work as a partnership. Thankfully, this seems to have changed as the two have had time to get to work together.

It is no coincidence that the two games during pre-season where Gallas and Toure started as the central defence pairing – against Inter Milan in the Emirates Cup and Ajax in the Amsterdam Tournament – Arsenal looked at their most secure. Phillipe Senderos has looked sharper than ever before and Johan Djourou remains an exciting prospect, but if Arsenal are to challenge in England and the Champions League next season then Gallas and Toure need to form a partnership as effective as Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand-Nemanja Vidic and Chelsea’s John Terry-Ricardo Carvalho pairings. Gallas and Toure have shown in pre-season that they can work as a pair and with both players possessing the necessary experience the two can provide a basis of inspiration for the young players around them.

What do you think?

You can have your say on Arsenal’s pre-season by leaving a comment.


49 thoughts on “What has pre-season taught us about Arsenal?

  1. test as not yet came,so wenger as been using mostly the whole squad to pick out the best 11,but it’s the first three league games that wenger will have a picture of what too look forward for,as long as we don’t conceded that one goal every match and take that chances that come by,then the prospects of arsenal winning the league is more than possible!

  2. 1. Hleb is way better in the center.
    2. Eboue is way better as a winger.

    And i feel that with hleb shining in the central role, we will be less reliant on Fab for creating the chances.
    And don’t anyone think an injury to clichy will put us in some trouble?

  3. I think if Clichy gets injured it will cause problems, but Traore looks solid enough to cover for short periods. I think Clichy has a real chance become just as important as some of our bigger name players like Fabregas and van Persie and that is full credit to him.

  4. And I agree that Eboue is better on the wing Hleb is much better in the centre. The blog poll overwhelmingly shows that most people believe this as well – around 70% of readers agree.

  5. Though Eboue has really impressed me at RM this pre-season., I still feel we are settling for a player who CAN play the position, instead of someone who is a top class winger. We are not in aposition to settle for anything. I still think we need a true, natural winger. Eboue has done a fine job, but if we are to compete with the others we need the top players at all positions. The wings are the only area where we make do with what we have. AW has a history of moving players around and finding their best poitions, and I am aware Eboue is a re-converted winger. We have the money to buy players, and I really do think we will see an out and out winger arrive. What happens if Eboue gets injured? Back to Hleb on the right I guess, which would be redundant. If we are to challenge for the Premiership this season, we cant make do with what he have. We are not a complete squad yet, and injuries to the wings would leave us helplessly thin. If we can find the ever-elusive versatile winger of the Freddie/Bobby/Overmars mould, I feel we would be able to cope with whats trhown at us.

  6. I agree. There have been hints around that Ricardo Quaresma will be on his way. Just word on the street though. Brother of a friend type of stuff. I think at this stage that Hleb/Rosicky are competing for the left position and Eboue/Walcott are competing for the right. Wenger would be mad to put Hleb on the right after the form he’s shown so far.

  7. SF: Quaresma looked really sharp for Porto in the Feyenoord Tournament. All the attriutes to be an Arsenal player and succeed in the Prem. Fingers crossed. I agree with the wing pairings as well. I just really like both Hleb ansd Rosicky, and would hate to not see them on the pitch at the same time.. cake and eat it too i guess… Also, as for Hleb on the left.. if he didnt reloish the right side, me-wonders if he would relish the left?

  8. The secret to Hleb is having him in a position where he can cut into the area. His tendency at Stuttgart was to receive the ball on the left and dribble towards to centre – he’s very capable of it. But he has really struggled on the right and I wouldn’t like to see him play there. Rosicky and Hleb can only play on the same team if Hleb plays behind a lone striker.

  9. Firstly well done to our young team for beating PSG,Inter Milan,Lazio and Ajax that says something!
    Wenger wonderland…..!I would be delighted if Arsenal sign one of this players the last day.
    1.Ricardo Quaresma
    2.Wesley Sneijder
    3.Royston Drenthe
    4.Lassana Diarra
    5.Luka Modric
    What do you think?

  10. Quaresma yes. Sniejder, though extremely talented, as too similar to Rosicky or Hleb. With Clichy and Traore, I dont think Drenthe would be a massive imporvement. For me he seems most effective coming from deep left, just like Clichy and Traore. I also think Clichy would be as effectve as him as a LM. SF is correct in saying that he can/could revolutionize the position. Diarra is a good player, buit I am happy with our DM’s. Diarra has also played at RB, another position we are not in need of. Modric I like, though most of what i know of himk is thru great performances on Football manager(gret buy for cheap!). Robinho I do like. Not a true winger, and not the answer to our problems. I just like to watch him play. As for my wishes.. Quaresma would be great, as would Mancini. I did like Guardado until Deportivo got him(and I think work permit may have been a stumbling block). I have watched everything I can find on Di Maria, and he could do a job as well. Does seem to play up front a lot though. I wouldnt be surprised to see us land a young upcoming player. Seems like everyday there is some new south American wonderkid being linked with us or the Prem. Point being that, as AW knows too well, there are tons of talentyed players out there and you can only play 11 at a time!

  11. Good article It seems all players have improved over last season. Gallas who was quite pitiful last season, Hleb, Denilson, Clichy Eboue. Sagna has slotted in right away van Persie back to his best and we have reasonable cover in all positions.

  12. Hey Joshua. To be completely honest with you, my answers to your options are as follows:

    (1) Yes, definitely.
    (2) No, great player but we already have Rosicky and Hleb.
    (3) Yes, but only if the price is right.
    (4) Could be a good addition to the squad as replacement for Gilberto but won’t make any waves in the short-term.
    (5) Don’t know enough to comment
    (6) No, not what we need. Great player but too individualistic and is not a natural winger.

    Anyone else?

  13. slc highbury“Sagna has slotted in right away”

    I have been surprised with how easily Sagna has slotted in and when it’s all said and done it’s quite a relief. He looks so composed already and will surely only get better. Looks like another good piece of business by Wenger and looking forward to him taking on the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea.

  14. Fully see Sagna and Clichy(who I rate over Abidal) as France’s FB’s for years to come. Sagna is class. Agreed, another great signing by AW.

  15. Regarding Modric. He seems more of a central player, just behind the strikers. Not a position we need to fill. Also, if a deal where to be done, it probably would have happened when we signed his teammate Eduardo. Too bad Modric isnt a winger…

  16. I honestly believe all this talk about Modric has only arisen because we signed Eduardo. Croatians rate him but – like you say – he’s not really what we’re after at the moment.

  17. “……Though Eboue has really impressed me at RM this pre-season., I still feel we are settling for a player who CAN play the position, instead of someone who is a top class winger…”
    i totally disagree with that. If you saw Ebuoe playing inter milan, he terrorised the defence. One thing about him is tht he can deliver nice crosses (remember the one Henry headed in against Man U). Again he can run along the line and cut in low balls into the penalty area and the best part of his game is when he cuts in right away towards 18 line and don’t forget that he’s the funniest guy in the squad 🙂

    Lastly, if we need a winger it definately got to be for the left wing. Walcott will replace Ebuoe when he goes for the africa cup of nations.

  18. Knightman: I was at Inter. Eboue was great I have said that time and again. His crosses have only gotten good recent ly, as people seem, to forget that when he arrived, as a winger, he couldnt cross to save his life. Eboue can only take a player on with hisn pace, and hasnt the ability to create his own space. He isnt anywhere near as technical as true winger should be. His play comes from knocking the ball past opponents, or cutting back and passing. Agreed we need someone who can play left as well, but a versatile winger is what i have been requesting. Eboue is best as a RB, going forward. We are settling for him as a winger. A Quaresma type player would increase our attacking options. Eboue is not a top class winger. If you think he is, than you need to watch more wingers. I lobe Eboue. I have said it tons of times. Howeverm we are not in a position to make do with re-converted winger.

  19. As for Walcott, I still feel he will be a striker in the long term. AW bleeds his youth on the wings to get them comfortable taking players on. I feel he will eventually be mobved up front. Also, when eboue goes to ACN(which ivory Coast will do well in), we will be stuck again with no depth on the wing. Walcoot, not a winger, and Hleb, not a winger. We need a someone who can play on the wings. fact.

  20. sorry for the multiple msgs..blame the virus in my system..

    My point on Ebuoe is that he is unique. uniqueness has been arsenal’s trademark since wenger came in.The style henry played was criticised at first if i remember well and don’t forget he was a born winger converted to a legendary striker.Ebuoe might not be the perfect winger right now but he’s capable of turning into wing icon in a short while. Don’t get me wrong though, we may need one or two more signings, not because ebuoe can’t take up the challenge but to give us assurance in case of injuries and other problems. Walcott can be a striker, i fully agree. CHEERS!

  21. Eboue, unfortuantely, isnt unique. As I and SF have said, he doest create space fore himself. As for Henry, he was already in the France team and regarded as one of the most exciting talents oin the world. Cant use him as a comparison. Sorry. “Ebuoe might not be the perfect winger right now but he’s capable of turning into wing icon in a short while..” This is my point. He are not in a place to wait and see. L’ppol, Chelsea, Man U, Spurs arent waiting. Whether we like it or not, we need more immediacy in the wing position, and Eboue for me sint going to set the world alight on thw wing, which is what we need. ” Don’t get me wrong though, we may need one or two more signings, not because ebuoe can’t take up the challenge but to give us assurance in case of injuries and other problems.” Eboue could be great cover for RM, but not our #1. I havent said he CANT play the position.. in fact I say he CAN play it. We need someone who MASTERS the position.

  22. I’ll prefer DERENTHE on the left than any other player at the moment. He’s quick, strong and can defend. Did you see FEYERNOOD/POOL match? He can come far cheaper too, say all the money we had from Reyes sale but Quaresma will be expensive and will come with a big ego. He had problems with his ego at BARCA before. Can’t defend too. DRENTHE is my choice for the left side. Can’t rely on Rosicky there. he’s too injury prone and has’nt done much for us since he came along; most often on the treatment table. Hleb should improve his scoring abilities otherwise we’ll have few goals from the middle of the field. Pass, pass, pass to death is what he does and he’s the main culprit for our lack of goals from the mid, despite his technical abilities. If we don’t get goals from him, we’ll be in trouble.

  23. Spot on Harlan… I just wonder about spending a chunk of money(must cost a lot more than Clichy/Traore) on a player when we have said left backs. Or are you suggesting that he is best used as an AML? He would fit in well with the way our wings are playing, left in particular. I agree was really sharp against Pool and I know he would do a great job for us. I just wonder if he would do THAT much of a better job(in respect to his transfer fee, which will be inflated)) than our two boys we have. True Traore is very young, but he is well built and seems to have strong nerves. I guess I have always seen Drenthe as an attacking/fantastic LB..

    regarding my “uniqueness” comment about Eboue. Thats a bit unfair. he is unique because he plays for the most unique team in the world. i guess my point is he needs to be EXTRA unique, and I dont think he is.. there, thats better.

  24. SF-As explained above, we only need a left mid and we’re okay for now until January. If you read my reasons for Drenthe, methinks he’s the guy we need. He created a lot of panic for Pool 3 days ago and was great during the U21 matches so there’s consistency there in his performances.

    I’m in the US and will return in the middle of September. I watched the MANU/Chelsea league opener on Fox Soccer Channel and EPL matches will be shown on the network so I’m fine for now.

  25. Sam Nix-If we buy Drenthe we will use him as a left midfield player on the wild left; the role for him during the U21 tournament where he came into the limelight. He’ll be great because his play can also improve with Arsene coaching him.

  26. Harlan: I know that Drenthe is very good, seen him plays loads. What I am interested in is your reasons for paying a lot of money for a player we essentially have two of. Clichy cost us £250K and Traore was free, no? So what can Drenthe bring to the table for the added transfer value? I like Drenthe loads. Star of the U21EC, hands down. Just having trouble justifying the money i guess..

    Good points about Quaresma in particular. His attitude has to come into question. So easy to forget when you see the way he can play..

  27. I know barca sed that Deco was staying but so did Henry, barca offered and he went so if we offer the right amount, he might come. Quarsema another fantastic winger (once again portugese). Good Pace and crossing and then theres Mancini – anova portugese well spose its better than another frenchman lol!

    Be quiet and dont be Silly.
    We are the famous Arsenal,We never say die.!

  29. Harlan“I’ll prefer DERENTHE on the left than any other player at the moment. He’s quick, strong and can defend. Did you see FEYERNOOD/POOL match?”

    You mean the game where he attempted to kill Steven Gerrard?

    About Eboue and the wing situation… – I’m happy for him to start as our first choice right midfielder and I don’t necessarily think we will be “settling” if we play him there. My reasons for requiring a new winger (right or left-sided) boil down to the fact that we’re lacking in depth. Of course a player like Quaresma would be absolutely wonderful to add the squad but in all reality we just need another player who can come in and do a job when called upon – like Ljungberg and to a lesser extent Pires did later on in their careers at Arsenal. That is why I would’ve been happy with Martin Petrov (who is now at Manchester City) and, as I said many times before, Florent Malouda. But at this stage I’m not too worried about who comes in because I trust Wenger’s judgment, I just think that SOMEONE needs to come in soon to add more depth.

  30. SF-You’ve always underestimated this DRENTHE guy; may be you’re seeing beyond me. However, you’ve not given your opinion on his performance to date. I personqally believe he’s the player we need to fill in on the left mid.

    SF-Every pundit seem to have come down on Arsenal regarding our chances in the upcoming title challenge. Just read Alan Smith in the Telegraph and while not very critical, his views were not different from that of other pundits. Our match against Fulham has thus become a huge one needed to send a message across and put fear in our opponents. Anything less than 3 goals will not be sufficient.

  31. Harlan – I definitely don’t underestimate Drenthe and I personally wouldn’t mind him at Arsenal, I just think he is overhyped. Plenty of people do well at U21 level and although he looks sharp I haven’t seen him enough to be his biggest supporter. I honestly don’t believe we have a void at left midfield, just that we need reinforcements on either side. As for the performance on the weekend, any sort of win would do it for me. Three goals is asking a fair bit in the first game of the season when we have failed to score three goals in any pre-season game except against Genclerbirligi. Things will step up against Fulham and I’d be happy with any sort of win. Let people keep writing Arsenal off, it will only make Wenger and the boys more determined to succeed.

  32. well guys am back from holiday in dubai…. well firstly arsenal are big in dubai, they show every game… and because they got fly emirates on the shirt its even bigger, arsenal top sell like crazy there.

  33. I believe Sneijder would be perfect for Arsenal especially after watching the Ajax Vs Arsenal match. Wenger should buy this player who will fit into the current squad well. Nobody should write off Arsenal because there is alot of talent and Eduardo will suprise many by complementing Van Persie as a formidable striking force.

    Wish the team all the best in their first game against Fulham.

  34. gunnershabz – Welcome back. How was Dubai?
    ArsenalKenya – Nice comments there. I think if Sneijder was brought in then either Rosicky or Hleb would have to leave and at this stage I would not be in favour of this. I think your comments about Eduardo is very true, Arsenal will surprise a lot of people next year. I hope you can enjoy the game all the way over in Kenya!

  35. I understand we were second behind MAN U with a point difference of 3?! i.e. if one drew up a mini-league of the top 10 teams!

    Just why did we perform so dismally then against the teams in the bottom half in 2006/7 season?

    Are we satisfied that the reasons for this have been adequately addressed and therefore confident of a strong title challenge? Maybe that’s a good starting point as we head into the new season…..just a thought.
    SF-your take on this please. I need some reassurance back here in NAIROBI KENYA

  36. Mimi wenu – I will provide a season preview within the next couple of days to have my say on all of this. In the meantime I encourage others to answer Mimi’s questions. In short, I think Arsenal can challenge because of the growth of the group of players in the past season.

  37. I do believe that maybe this year is the year for Arsenal.
    I’m an Arsenal fan and I can put my money on Arsenal winning the premiership.
    1.We have the best manager in the premiership
    2.We have the most creative midfield in the premiership.
    3.Our young gifted players don’t have the pressure Chelsea,Man United and Liverpool have.People dont expect Arsenal to win the premiership but we”ll surprise everyone.

  38. Joshua – It wouldn’t be the worst bet around to put some money down on Arsenal to win the Premiership right now. There is a definite chance. They’re 9/1 for the Premier League and 21/1 for the Champions League! I can see myself putting down a quick tenner on each for some fun.

  39. Joshua – There is a link to Kitbag running down the right-hand side of this blog. If you click there you will find the 3rd kit as well. If you need any help with this please let me know and I will try to assist.

  40. Thank you Fry!I Would be glad if you can assist me to buy one.In Israel here its very diffuilt to buy one.

  41. Mimi Wenu: I have to say that we have yet to adequately satisfy all of our previous shortcomings. Up front, I am satisfied with the strikers and other available. I think Eduardo will score lots of goals and prove to be an excellent signing. Ade will continue to work hard and crate space. Bendtner is well suited for the Prem, and RVP is RVP. Class. The centre of our midfield is fantatic. If they, with the wingers, share more of the defensive repsonsibility, then I believe they can rival anyone in the world, let alone the league. Our fullbacks are near perfect, with adequate depth on both sides. The centre of our defence is very strong I feel, with Sendy and Djourou providing good cover. Sendy has worked on his pace and it shows, thankfully. Technique needs to improve but given his added pace, Coupled with his bravery and spirit, I think he deserves one more real chance. Two youngsters in Nortveidt and Bartley will no doubt feature over the next few seasons. GK’s are ok for now. This really leaves the wings as the lone are for improvement. Rosicky and Hleb are better as central players, while Eboue, Walcott, Clichy et al. are not the answer for me on the wings. Any injuires, or players away for the African Cup of Nations, and we are desperately short. We would be back to playing Hleb and Rosicky on the wings. It didnt work last season, and I dont think it will this season. And thats it. If we can get a good winger who can play left or right, then I would be very happy. I would say we wouyld have addressed our failings of last season adequately.

  42. “This really leaves the wings as the lone are for improvement.”

    Agreed. One more winger is all we need – just to add some more depth to the position. I don’t necessarily believe they should start every game but Arsenal just lack that little bit of depth out wide that would be tested in the case of an injury or two. Apart from this, the side looks much improved.

  43. Although there is a whole lot of stuff to b positive about for the coming season, I sense a negative pattern in the midfield. We now have on our rolls for the position of CM – fabregas, Gilberto, Rosicky, Hleb, Diaby, denilson and flamini. On the wings or atleast side midfield we have only (possibly) Eboue and Walcott. This creates problems.

    1. In a central midfield where Fabregas and Gilberto are automatic first choices, great players like Rosicky and Hleb who have the skill to create passes and space in midfield are relegated to the wing. This was OK in Highbury which was narrow, but in the wider Emirates Stadium, we are allowing other teams space in wide areas and not using it well enough ourselves.

    2. Fabregas and Gilberto are more likely to take shots from outside the box after Henry’s departure, but again we are still losing out on a man who is good at shooting from range – Tomas Rosicky. Hleb has seemingly found his ideal spot as secondary striker, but Rosicky is still not being offered his preferred role. For me, he is the man who will diversify what we do with the ball in CM – when opponents expect a through ball, they might get a powerful curling shot into the top-left corner of the net.This allows Fabregas to still have an element of surprise when he plays a clever through-ball, opponents cannot assume that Arsenal will always pass the ball from midfield… if we start scoring from midfield. It is important to get this side to our game.

    3. People have talked about how our attack is more diverse – we now have Bendtner as a physical presence, and Adebayor who is tall and thus has an aerial advantage. However, the crosses are just not coming in. Walcott is a forward, and Eboue is a good right-back, but only a make-shift right winger, besides he’s going to the African Cup in mid-season. It CANNOT hurt to sign a winger, especially on the left, for a reasonable fee.

    In the end, it’s all about giving yourself options ON THE PITCH. If your only trump card is counter-attacking (in a league full of defensive minnows who sit back and hold out for a draw) then you have got to look for other ways to get goals. Mr. Wenger has taken positive steps in this regard but this one LAST problem, about the balance of our mid-field needs sorting out. Then we shall be true world-beaters.

  44. buy stewart downing.middlesbrough will sell cheap.support england goods and products

  45. But…and this is a big but….we need to score goals from midfield which was not that happened last season….lets hope to see som goal scoring from hleb/fab in the new season.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *