Getting Hold Of The Midfield

Topping the table is not, it seems, a happy time for some. Being first now of course does not guarantee any silverware this season but the naysayers do not want to even have the glimmer of a smile, preferring instead to save all their enjoyment for May, which is fair enough I suppose. It does make for a long season though.

Arsene highlighted a perceived fault in the victory over Fulham. Talking of the lack of protection the back four received on Saturday, he said:

Teams close us down because they know we play through the middle, so I push my midfielders up a bit at the start to give us more room. Song is high up the pitch because we want him there.

I am comfortable with that, even though it sometimes leaves us open in the middle of the park. If we lose the ball in the build-up, we are in trouble.

But we want to play in the other half of the pitch and, therefore, we have to push our opponents back. My philosophy is not to be in trouble, but to fool the opponent into trouble. Sometimes it doesn’t do my heart-rate much good. But if you get the three points it’s OK.

There is a received wisdom that you do not win anything in football without a midfielder whose role is purely defensive. Yet, the most successful club and international side in recent years have done exactly that.

Neither Spain or Barcelona has enjoyed success by having a midfielder whose role is purely to sit in front of the back four. Instead they have two players in the centre who rotate their attacking. Given that their style of play is the closest to that of Arsenal, little surprise that Arsene has adopted a similar philosophy.

In Arsenal’s case, this has meant more licence for Alex Song to push forward. Saturday saw Fulham play with numbers in that area, smothering Arsenal for the last quarter of an hour in the first half. Prior to that and subsequently in the second half, Arsenal enjoyed considerable possession and created numerous chances. That is the upside.

As Wenger observed when it does not work, there are gaps in the midfield, leaving the defence exposed. The issue is not Song playing higher up the pitch, more that his central partner(s) are not understanding (or maintaining) the need for rotation in terms of attack and defence. Where Spain and Barcelona have succeeded is the movement of Xavi and his fellow midfielders, their ability to hold and attack with intelligence.

Wenger talks consistently of wanting intelligent players, those who understand and appreciate their own role along with that of their team-mates. In the case of Jack Wilshere, this lack of appreciation is understandable, his relative inexperience means that Song is the senior partner, requiring him to take more responsibility in directing others.

In Wilshere’s defence, he has played more – on merit – than possibly expected due to injuries suffered by others. It is not inconceivable that had Denilson, Fabregas and Diaby all been fit, Wilshere would probably have played around half the number of games that he has. This situation has meant that rather than learning slowly, Jack’s education has been in public.

Creatively, he has shown that he is ready for the top echelons of football. Defensively, he is a work in progress. This scenario places extra pressure on the team, sometimes curbing his natural tendencies is going to be difficult, cover for the back four is not provided when necessarily expected.

As the season evolves, so will the team. The style of play will become stronger and more cohesive as months pass. Crucially, last weekend saw a victory following consecutive home Premier League defeats. In that respect, the desire to win was over-riding, stretching the play perhaps more than a confident Arsenal side would necessarily do.

There is a need to rid ourselves of this belief that nothing can be won without a purely holding midfielder. That does not have to be the only way to win. Proof of that though will only come in May.

’til Tomorrow.

Posted on December 6, 2010, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 166 Comments.

  1. Top of the table, yet gooners are arguing left, right and centre. Good to see YW bringing in some sense to the drama!

  2. Yes,

    Nice to see such balanced statements and perspective about Christmas on ACLF.

    It will be Christmas soon – and it’s all down to Santa, the wonderful children, the dedicated elves – and Fu*k the begrudgers right – because they are not true believers like us intelligent people! Why, we even have carol singers on this site..!

    Yes – it’s Christmas.

    Let’s not mention that it is in fact nearly three weeks till Christmas, that Christmas only lasts one day, the previous 364 days that were not Christmas, the flagrant inconsistency of celebrating Christmas on the day of a pagan festival– no lets saviour the moment because It – Is – Christmas.

    Like a pace maker who pats his head with one hand and rubs his stomach in a circular motion with the other before the first lap is even complete – but never mind those who ask the difficult questions – It – Is – Christmas.

    And whatever we do – let’s not learn any lessons from previous Christmases – because they don’t count anymore. Yes that was in the days when we drank too much, when we gave ourselves indigestion, when we had to eat Brussels sprouts, when there was nothing on the box, when the jokes in the crackers weren’t particularly funny, when the paper crowns messed up our hair, when some of our presents weren’t quite what we wanted, when our young nieces and nephews all took advantage and our in-laws failed to kneel down and kiss our arses.

    Yes, It – Is – Christmas.

    Just Curious, but does anyone here per chance think that we might have a merry Christmas again this year?

  3. Shamelessly copying and pasting, otherwise it’s ten minutes lost (well, even more lost than usual):

    Mark Hughes is painting himself as some kind of pioneering tactical genius – laying the tracks for other teams to give us trouble. The trick, he says, is to get in their faces and try and catch out their CBs with balls over the top. Amazing insight. I don’t think any other sides have tried that against us this season.

    Truth is we should have been 3-up by the time they got their lucky goal. After that we had the weight of our previous home struggles on our shoulders, while having to adjust at the back.

    I agree that none of the midfielders played particularly well. And I’m a fan of Rosicky, but is there a case for RvP taking that number 10 role? Or would that be just too gung-ho?

    As for Song bombing forward – I accept that he doesn’t quite have the awareness of AA and Cesc, but he can be pretty unpredictable, does have good technique and an eye for goal. Also important is his physique – we don’t really have anyone with his build in our attack, and it certainly causes problems for sides when he’s on form.

    Kenny Sansom’s talks so much nonsense, but he did mention something that I’ve often wondered – isn’t it interesting how defenders often favour attacking football when they become managers, while the opposite is often true of former attacking players.

  4. Personally Ibthink without Diaby, Song has take on the powerful box to box midfielder role and while this works well with Denny alongside him, it becomes a problem with Jack especially when the opposite are by passing the midfield, pressing high ip themselves.

  5. Mark Hughes really is shameless!

  6. Oh Pz, looooool

  7. Poliziano – did you wake up in the same bed as Joe?

    I’ve been bewildered at the moaning and bitching that some Arsenal fans have indulged in. It looks like unless the team scores 7 goals without reply then Arsenal are useless.

    Incidentally, we’re pathetic and only deserve to be mid-table and the Chavs and Mancs are only having a blip.

  8. Who needs a bloody defensive midfielder, in my days a midfielder’s job was to support the forwards in attack and help the defenders when needed.

    If you need to waste a man just to sit in front the defence why not just play a 5 man with a true centre half.

  9. I’m waiting for AIC to turn up????

  10. and suga3 surely they have something to say today.

  11. OOU – if Mark Hughes was any good in implementing his tactical nous, why the hell didn’t Fulham win. Sheesh!

  12. as u said, time will tell if this approach will work…yes, i’m happy we are on top, but can we maintain the push till the end? i for one will prefer a much solid defensive approach than the all guns blazing attacking style we have…sure, we might say we’ve modeled ourselves on the Barca style but they take their chances 99% of the time and are more incisive and accurate with their approach..we on the other hand dilly dally too much on the ball, preferring to play possession football and no one taking it upon himself to take the all important shot at goal. Come May, we’ll know whether this team have finally come of age, or they are just still pretenders…

  13. Im also a scrooge like Poliziano.

  14. Femi – get off the fucking fence and support your team.

    What is this come May we’ll know nonsense. Your team needs your support now – not in frigging May.

  15. femi you work for the daily mail dont ya.

  16. You’ve got to let Hughes take something from the game, Darius. Look – he really needs this one, OK?

  17. Darius,

    You should see these ‘fans’ on twitter, a real horror show this morning. Only good thing was seeing OleG hand Arseblog his ass, over his piece this morning!

  18. The comparison with Barcelona is seriously flawed. They have Sergio Busquets who almost always just sits in front of the back four. He very very rearely advances past Xavi and Iniesta.

    Wenger’s logic is poor on this occasion and I’m not one for criticising themanager unneccessarily. He admits in his quotes that when we lose the ball with Songe being pushed on that we are vlunerable. This in unacceptable, we have plenty of players to score the goals, Song should do what he’s best at and play defensive midfield. Quite apart from being the poorest midfielder from an attacking point of view that we have playing in the first 11 at the moment (That’s not a criticism, it’s just not his game), a few clean sheets would do wonders for the confidence and and impact on the oppoistion approach too, at the moment even the poorest teams in theleague think they have a chance against us. It’s not too many years ago that other teams were almost beaten before they took the field knowing that the combination of miserly defence and devastating attack would be nigh on impossible to resist. When exactly did the boss abandon that outlook??

  19. The top 3 teams in the table all have their defensive problems. What I can’t take in is how ours is ascribed to “mental weakness”, or a “soft underbelly”.

    While the others are excused by “injury to key players” as if Vermaelen is not a “key player.”

  20. Nice article. Unfortunately there are too many pretend Arsenal supporters on the other blogs (and even the blog owners) who seem to relish and enjoy the moments that Arsenal do not do so well as opposed to supporting the team that you supposedly love. People need to understand that in the Premier league there are no easy games anymore and you do not have a define right to beat someone just because they are not in the top four. This is why the EPL is the best league in the world as on any given day, anyone can beat anyone. Yes we are top of the league and still in all four competitions, yet according to some bloggers we are shit and struggled against Fulham, Fabianski was crap, Wenger has lost the plot….I think I will kill myself! We are a club in crisis.

  21. Honestly reading this site yesterday you would have thought we had lost! Of course Chavski arnt top because their without Terry and Lampard,well excuse me but we have been without TV,Cesc (yesterday) Ramsey,diaby etc so get over it.Were top and deserve to be,if the ref at Sunderland hadnt just waited until they scored we would be further ahead.apparantly we will come unstuck now V Manure,Man city and the Chavs,not from what ive scene so far this season. If Hughes is such a tactical genius how come hes taken fulham so far backwards? I really wish some Arsenal fans could make more effort to appreciate what we have.My train to the ground from Yeovil is 3 hours there and back and all i hear is moan,moan,moan its really painfull.

  22. Femi,

    I think the views you expressed were balanced and valid. On the other hand Darius is right to extoll us to support the team, except it’s bleeding obvious and he has apoor way of expressing himself!

    Femi 1 : Darius 0 🙂

  23. @Maria – It’s so easy to scream at the computer screen with some of the nonsense being written.

    Manure has been leaking goals left right and centre and they’ve drawn 6 games by giving away 2 goal leads in the last 5 minutes. What the f*ck is that if it isn’t mental weakness.
    The Chavs can’t buy a victory at the moment if their lives depended on it – and yet they are excused.

    Actually – you know what – I can stomach the plundits and hacks wishing Arsenal away like an irritating itch that is annoying to them and that doesn’t do their narrative any justice.

    What I can’t stand are Arsenal supporters and bloggers who swallow that media bullshit hook line and sinker and show how “soft and milky” (Mick McCarthy’s new line) they are.

    Bastards, the whole f*cking lot of them!

  24. I agree – this being top of the table is a total disaster. It blinds people to how bad we are. It’s like Block4 so wisely points out the boss has abandoned the reasons we used to be successful. I dread to think how bad things will be if (god forbid) we win the league.
    A title would hide all our dreadful flaws entirely and allow these optimistic fools to believe we deserve to be at the top.

  25. LOL Steww.

    I might move to Somerset – how is the Arsenal moaner-gauge down your neck of the woods?

  26. I see Femi has just dragged another doomer from Le Moan to support him here!

  27. Block4, femi, and the rest of the pretender fans.

    Why do we need a defensive midfield? Get your heads out your asses, Arsenal plays a high pressure game, we can’t afford to allow our opponents to lump long balls into our box 50 times a game. 2 or 3 out of the 50, they are bound to get jammy goals, with a Davies type elbow in between. Wenger has set these tactics to stop teams reaching our goal, and like he said, when it works it works very well. We should have been 2 or 3 goals up by half time, so why the fuck is everyone complaining. Top of the league, and plenty room for improvement. The confidence and composure is slowly starting to return to our home form.

  28. It is not referred to as the ‘D**M Position’ without reason.
    Funny thing is, Song was fairly chilled with his foraging on Saturday:

    Clichy makes yet ANOTHER interception. Looks ahead, Arshavin is ‘being lazy’. Chamack is high up on the left. So, Clichy leaves it for Nasri, who’d switched to the tiring Wilshere’s LCM D**M position.
    Nasri looks to Song:

    “Not to me Nazza, I’m just going to D**M about here. Go on lad, you go. Find your D**M.”

    Nasri shimmies, he shammies.
    Arshavin: “Here mate!”
    RVP: “GIVE IT!”
    Nasri taps the ball to Arshavin whilst RVP shows the D**Mers out there he can run fast.
    RVP: “AGAIN!”. Arshavin turns and taps the pass through, a defender panics and falls over as the football bends it way through time and space.
    Walcott who’d cut across the midfield minutes earlier to help seize back momentum, makes a trademark mini-burst, Hangerland and another defender follow on instinct. There’s a magic pocket that appears in the Fulham Mastermind’s TBOF. Nasri bombs forward.
    RVP: “Thank you very much.” To Walcott.
    Walcott: “My turn!”
    RVP thinks about shooting.
    Walcott: “My turn!”
    RVP: “OK then.” He tips the football through to Nasri.
    He shimmies, he shammies.
    He twists, he turns.
    He scores.

    D**Mnation will also ignore that minor but important Walcott contribution, they’ll also ignore the double push on his back when he ‘gave away’ a goal kick.
    Only one genuine mistake by Walcott, but Sagna (a player also criticised by D**Mnation) was in one of his infamous Gandalf moods:
    “You shall not pass!”.

    Some say this team has no ‘combinations’.

  29. I don’t talk to other Arsenal fans Darius, I hate them all. They just seem to blindly follow the club as we lurch from one season to another at or near the top, challenging on multiple fronts . It’s the same year in year out; believing in how we play and getting behind the team.

  30. I am not sitting on the fence here…I definitely want us to end the season on top just like any true passionate gooner out there…I am only stating my opinion. I do not concur to the ‘haven’t one anything in five years’ opinion, but I do believe with the right setup and the right belief we can make it over the finish line. How many times have you watched this Arsenal team play and time and time again they’ve had the opportunity to kill off the opposition, only to succumb to one long route football and drop points? I believe a little bit more ruthlessness in front of goal and a show of grit at the defensive end, and we should be champions at the end of the season.

  31. Even with god Terry back the Chavs at home, the same team we beat away just a couple of weeks away. It really is amazing how our own fans change the posts to what’s a good result. Utterly stupid!

    Oh and their man mountain Essein was back too.

  32. Nice article Yogi,

    But like someone else has mentioned, your Barca example is inaccurate. Busquets rarely ever goes past the other two central midfielders when he’s playing. If I remember correctly spain also sets up the same way. Heck, we did much of the same last season as well when Song wasn’t making nearly as much forward runs.

    You have to give it to Arsene though, the man has got balls. He himself observed at the end of last season that we conceded to many goals, and how does he try to remedy the problem? He commits even more men forward!

    While I would have hoped he’d be more conservative, I understand his tactic and hope very much that the approach works in the end. As he himself said, it’s not very good for the heart rate though!

  33. TV out till jan.

  34. I am sick and tired of the this nosense that our defense is very weak yet chelsea and Manu are conceding goals… But the media decide to pick on us every time they get a chance.I mean we on top of he table for goodness sake but even our fans don’t appreciate….these players need our support from now on. We are going into a very difficult period where we play every after 1 day. So the support is needed. To be honest with, I have never met fans as so critical as the arsenal ones. Support your team you naysayers(O how I hate naysayers)

  35. still waiting for Alex and his ice cream.

  36. i actually might sort of a bit agree with steww!!!! the gooners in the ground that is. fukin hate em, booing us off at half time again were they! spoilt bastads. fukin no fun going to the emirates these days. mind you it seems all football fans are the same now every team gets booed off now if they aint winning. spoilt generation.

  37. Henristic

    Barcelona pressures very high up the pitch. More so than us, and look how they are doing. I think every Arsenal supporter agreed last season that we didn’t apply enough pressure high up the pitch. Wenger is correcting the issue, but there are minor tweaks that are needed.

    What ever anyone may say about this Arsenal team, we have the drive, commitment, and ability to win this league. Those that fail to aknowledge this and continue to make excuses are just scared of failure.

    It is the wrong attitude, we should be all optimistic and looking forward to getting our hands on a trophy. Wenger has built a fine team, one which isn’t perfect, but nor is United or Chelsea. We have the strongest squad to chellenge for the title and other trophies. Plus we watch a team full of players with skill and the will to attack.

    Lets enjoy it.

  38. We actually play with 2 (TWO, T-W-O) defensive midfielders.

  39. Defensively, we are better than at the corresponding stage last season. First 16 fixtures in EPL, 2009-10 conceded 20 goals, this time 18. In corresponding fixtures (substituting promoted / relegated teams), 17 conceded last season, 18 this. Where’s the reputedly worse defensive play this time around. It just does not stack.

    Busquets does rotate with Xavi, it is simply that the latter is better in attack than the former. Therefore, the rotation is less marked. Clinical finishing is a different matter altogether, as the 41 and 40 goals in the first 16 and corresponding fixtures last season attest. Even so, we have the same number of points.


  40. Ole G

    Surely the whole point is that midfielders defend and attack as required without being pigeon-holed into the rigidity of football tactics on paper?


  41. But like someone else has mentioned, your Barca example is inaccurate. Busquets rarely ever goes past the other two central midfielders when he’s playing. If I remember correctly spain also sets up the same way. Heck, we did much of the same last season as well when Song wasn’t making nearly as much forward runs.


  42. A LCM D**Mer.
    A RCM D**Mer.

  43. YW,

    This discussion is ridiculous. We have 2 holding midfielders and we’re being told that all we need do is have one and all defensive problems solved.

  44. I remember how many seasons people told us, Arsenal need a big strong midfielder to sit in front of the back 4, and all their problems will be solved. So, we got Song, everybody said he did well last season. But guess what, we conceded more goals than ever.

    But hey, you all see it. That’s the solution!

  45. I can’t believe that there is even a ‘debate’ going on here with the doomers.

    Hello. We are top of the league.

  46. @ block4
    If you had seen Barça on Saturday, you would have seen Busquets playing the Arshavin role on the left. Iniesta was playing where Busquets plays for La Roja and was interchanging duties with Xavi in the middle. There was no designated DMF. You may have noticed Sergio’s goal vs. Madrid.
    Over at Arsenal Mania someone noticed that Barça plays a 4-6-0, with Villa, the nominal striker, working as an extra midfielder always providing pressure from the top in recovery, much as Chamakh has been doing.
    The point of all this is possession, quick movement and patience. Where Barça is superior is in the high accuracy of their passing, their deeper understanding of roles and their tireless pressure on recovery. These things can be taught.

  47. “Surely the whole point is that midfielders defend and attack as required without being pigeon-holed into the rigidity of football tactics on paper?”

    I will agree with you on this, if only we do take the chances that we create most of the time, and when we need to defend we do it well also. You can’t tell me after watching the first 20 minutes of the Fulham game you were not thinking at the back of your mind this team will still allow the opposition a way back into the game? And this is not due to defensive frailties or a dodgy goalie as the media wants us to believe, but our inability to finish teams off. I believe Squillachi and Koscielny have been solid enuff at the back for their first season in the EPL, and Djourou has been very dependable every time he’s stepped in, for a guy who has been out of the game for a year. Fabianski has also been reliable enuff, so I do not concur with the notion that we need to buy extra players to be competitive. We just need the ones we have now to have that extra belief, that extra push and this might just be our year. That’s why I believe winning the Carling cup will go a long way in boosting morale, and getting the monkey off their back. But I still want an Alex Song that does what Alex does best- Defend!!

  48. Azabaxe,

    Barca also play in a different league where referees give free kicks and all teams try to play football.

  49. I think we need a defensive striker.

  50. “Poliziano – did you wake up in the same bed as Joe?”

    My father was a blind watchmaker of neo-Darwinist leanings, of rather a selfish character, and apt to interpret others in the light of his own personality…and my mother was a turkey. In such a household, as you might imagine, Christmas was treated with a certain amount of scepticism.

  51. femi,

    We do have problems in defence. Nobody is pretending we don’t.

    But people should be less hysterical

  52. Ole, it doesn’t matter what name you call the midfielders. The point is how high up the pitch they play. Do you disagree we have our midfielders particularly song playing higher up the pitch this season? Do you think this sometimes leaves us exposed in the middle compared to when he doesn’t push up so much?

  53. An interesting analysis of the midfield play Yogi. I’ve been supporting a need for a hard-man in there. Barcelona interesting got rid of theirs in Yaya Toure and the Spanish national team doesn’t really have one! So a team can work without a hard-man but I still think that in our case, and that this is the EPL with fellows like Shawcross and De Jong, a hard-man is quite necessary!

  54. Chris G,
    What gave you the impression that I’m not enjoying being top of the league?

    Would you prefer we only discuss tactics and analyse games when we’re losing?

  55. Maria,

    I do not know Femi, and I have never heard of “le Moan”, so don’t be childish.

    It is weird that there are people on here ranting and railing about other gooners who are ranting and railing, and both are claiming the high moral ground.

    Stick together guys, cut out the backbiting and realise we all love and support Arsenal. There are enough Arsenal haters out there without making matters worse between ourselves.

    We are top of the league, enjoy it!

  56. Why keep comparing us with Barca we are a million miles from that level of excellence in every position. I was a AKB, but after reading his defensive logic am now convinced we will not win anything with his current outlook. Oh for the days of Paddy and Manny in midfield. Song’s poor passing and tackling stats clearly bear out my own eyes and our show he is the is the wrong person for the role, maybe Ramsey will be our, and my blood pressures salvation. Regrettably I’m now on the naysayers bus.

  57. Poliziano, 🙂

    And to think they voted for Xmas! 🙂

  58. crazy half of the season – there hasnt been anyhting this open since the early 90s.

    It’s there to be won by any team capable of going on a stretch of wins from Feb onwards. Could be us!

    But surely we need to tighten up at the back to do that. You dont win many games by 5-0 in April. You grind out a 1-0 and we need to show we can do that consistently without these sudden de-railments (west brom etc).

    That said, we’re in with a shout, which is all we can ask at this time of eyar. Nasri to fire us to victory…

  59. Henristic,

    I’ll tell you where you can find the answer to your question: Go take a look at the average touch position of Arsenal players from last season, and for this season. You can find that at ESPN.

    Then I encourage you to report your findings.

    The midfielders are not really playing higher up the field.

    What infuriated me last night and this morning is that people got a lot of insight from Wenger’s comments on Song, but aren’t listening.

  60. Yogi’s Warrior | December 6, 2010 at 12:23 pm |

    Busquets rotates with Xavi only as much as DMs are traditionally expected to, sort of like how Song and Denilson played last season. All traditional DMs (even the offensively challenged ones such as Mascherano, Mikel, etc) go forward on occasion but that is not the point. The point is the frequency at which it occurs, which is clearly more this season for Song than for Busquets.

  61. I used to be a doomer; but having watched our unstoppable march to the top of the Premiership, I am now convinced we will win the league.

  62. LOL OLe,

    You go do the research and tell me if the ESPN data contradicts what Wenger said in the quote above, and what you yourself have been saying before now.

  63. TAL,

    It is unfortunate you name yourself a “naysayer”.

    A definition of a naysayer is someone who has the capacity to rant and whine for hours on end about the most insignificant matters. He tends to travel solo, but has the keen ability to spread his pessimistic attitude to a group of unsuspecting bystanders and encourage others to employ his mindset.

    Forgive me if I don’t join you! 🙂

  64. Lots of people mentioned our disjointed midfield at the Fulham game. I didn’t watch the game, but I expected it based on our performance against Fulham in previous meetings. For some strange reason, they always seem to be able to dominate the midfield against us but better than other teams can. I noticed that they are able to do this against Manu as well.

    Fulham games are always tricky and it was a big relief to win that game given our home form this season.

  65. Henristic,

    Dearie me.

    Football and the internet isn’t good for nuance. But the issue is nuanced.

    The fact that Song is allowed to go forward does not mean he’s always forward. The fact that Wenger says he starts with midfielder high up does not mean the midfielder is always high up.

    Just watch what’s actually unfolding in front of you.

    That’s another frustrating thing in all this.

  66. TAL: “AKB” Are you sure you are posting on the right blog? “AKB” is a term in conjuction with the doomer blog! Anyway, you say Song is the wrong man for the job, based on what facts? You mention tackling and passing and yet statisticly he is one of the better tacklers in the EPL, even the notorious MOTD “experts” have noted his tackling qualities. You state that Ramsey may be the salvation, why? because he is English?

  67. Koscielny & TV5 out until New Year. Must have been some concussion… A bit worrying now though, only Song to step in as cover. Maybe he’ll start charging forward, leaving our defence exposed 😉

  68. TAL: I forgot, the naysayer bus departs for LeGrove in 15 minutes. Have fun over there.

  69. Surely, is not the point that Song, who is our DM, does go forward, thus confusing the defence, as they find an extra man to defend against. The further forward they find him, the harder they are able to cope, not so much with him, but with everyone else. His being there is a distraction.

    It is a masterstroke and aeems to work. I have not doubt that when Song goes forward, someone else stays back, just like when we have a corner and both centerbacks go forward, the full backs become centerbacks.

    Clearly AW prefers this, as Song is still doing it after so many games. It may not yet be working 100%, but practice makes perfect.

    Song was unmarked when he had that shot in the second half, simply because the defence did not know he was there.

    By the way, did not Chelsea have a very easy first 10 games or so (apart from us, and even then they did not deserve to beat us)? They are now meeting the better teams, the teams who know how to counteract their bullying tactics and they have been found out.

  70. We definitely have to tighten up.

    But the issue is what it is. We have conceded 10 goals at home, a ridiculously high number. 6 of the 10 goals were in just 2 games.

    We continue to concede despite giving the opposition few chances.

    Wouldn’t it be negligent to omit remarking that most of the goals we’ve conceded in recent games have been bizzarre. The concussion incident against Fulham. The offside goal against Villa. The foul on Song in run up to Everton’s consolation. The foul on Denilson in run-up to Braga’s goal. Cesc’s inexplicable handball……

  71. He’s Welsh DFG… But we know what you’re saying!

    And TAL – absolutely crazy of you to change your stance completely after reading one article with some quotes from Wenger – the man who has gotten us to this point (top of the league), with the brightest future of all clubs – worldwide.

    If you actually understood what he’s saying though, you would realise that he isn’t just ignoring defensive responsibility, he’s trying to explain the higher pressing game that we have been trying this year.

    And as Ole says, we have 2 ‘DMs’, it’s just communication that needs to improve in that respect.

  72. Geo, Yes I know, sorry, I should have said British and not English but as you said, you know the point I am trying to make. I have read comments on a certain blog where a poster was saying we would never win anything with a French defensive back four (even though Verm is Belgium) it is these sort of ignorant non supportive statements that make me so angry. I am all for bringing in British talent but simply being British is not the answer. However, with that said, these anti foreignor posters need to take note of the young British talent that is coming through our ranks.

  73. @Azabaxe

    I didn’t see the Barca game on Saturday, I was in the pub after our game, but I find it very hard to believe that Busquets was playing wide left. He may have found himself out there a couple of times, but is that really where he lined up? Fact is he generally plays deeper than the rest of the Barca midfield and is the protection in front of their centre backs. You couldn’t play the full-backs as far forward as they do and not have someone detailed to sit int he midfield, you’d be torn to shreds. Especially as we don’t press the ball high up the pitch like Barca do, we did when we intially went to the 4-3-3, but that workrate went out fthe window fairly quickly for some reason.

    My real gripe is that Wenger’s quotes this weekend hve indicated that he has noticed the weakness when we lose the ball high up the field because Song is not holding like he did last season, but that he is quite happy to do nothing about it. Not that necessarily having a player playing that defensively will stop all the goals we concede, but it will help.

    As for those comparing our defensive record against Man Utd, Chelsea etc., just because they’re shipping goals doesn’t mean that’s fine for us to do so as well! The fact is we give up too many stupid goals, whether it be because of lack of defensive cover or poor goalkeeping. Take those silly mistakes away and sort out a proper defensive setup and we’d be walking this league.

  74. to imply that the system is ok if we get the 3 points is ridiculous. it’s possible to win the 3 points in spite of the system rather than because of it. here’s a hypothetical example: if a striker is wasting 10 chances for every one he scores, however we create 10 chances so he scores 1 and wins us the game, does that mean he’s an adequate striker? NO. or what about in these games where we win with this system but the opposition miss chances to get a result? is it ok then just because we got lucky that the opposition fucked up? NO. song is not that great further forward anyway so exposing our defense with him bursting forward seems more than a little pointless. Further more is our offense really that bad that with, on some days, we will be looking at a team with rvp, arshavin, nasri, fabregas and rosicky that we seriously need song to get forwards with his generally not particularly great offensive play? That’s just ridiculous. yeah song has been involved in a few goals and scored a couple as well this season, but how many goals are we scoring as a direct result of his involvement in the ttack compared to how many we’re conceding on the break because our defense is so frequently exposed and tested by the opposition. originally i blamed song for being undisciplined in getting forward so much but i’m sorry but this is absolutely wenger’s fault it seems and is just tactically crazy on his part. ESPECIALLY after song had a fantastic year in dm last year and has been much worse this year. i seriously doubt it’s a coincidence.

  75. Funny this should come up after a three game sequence that saw Alex Song playing the most disciplined midfield role of his season so far.

    “What do you mean a fluid, inter-changing midfield necessitated by 10 man defences? I want my DEFENSIVE midfielder! Waaaaa!”

    Imagine if we set this up next door to Joe’s house…

  76. Oh fuck off Sony.

  77. Block4 – We do play a high pressing game, and the workrate is there, almost all the time. The only times the workrate isn’t there are the few games/half games where we’ve looked off the boil (we all know when they have been).

    And it’s not that Wenger ‘has to do something about it’. He’s instructing Song to go forward, so why would anyone be thinking of ways to combat something that he’s created? That would just be insane.

  78. Ole,
    You love your strawman arguments, don’t you? Who ever said Song is always forward? Not even our strikers are always forward ffs!

    The point, again, is that he is going forward more than he did last season for instance, and more than his counterparts in Barca and Spain do, as YW was arguing.

    I really don’t have a problem with the new tactic, as I said before, I actually admire Wengers balls in doing this while being a bit concerned about how well it will work.

  79. DFG – I agree…. and any anti foreign posters/police/bin men/prostitutes etc should just fuck off back to the 1800’s.

  80. How’s that a strawman, Henristic.

    His average touch position shows where receives the ball most of the time doesn’t it? So if it’s not higher this season it rebuts your claim that “we have our midfielders particularly song playing higher up the pitch this season”.


  81. Don’t know why nobody has mention it, but there’s no video campaign of our charity this year. Shocking. AW is exposing himself as stingy bastard again. Our board are lining up their pockets sacrificing such a benchmark of our current history. I so wanted to see Cesc and co in fluffy bunny costumes. This really has ruined my Christmas and if you ask me in fact my whole Goonerdo(o)m.

    I used to be a AKB, now I’m a SUV.

  82. I’m hoping to become a GTI. Used to be a CFC before someone turned me made me an SOB…

  83. The fact that we’ve conceded a few goals less than last at this stage last season suggests that we’re at least not worse off defensively .

    We’ve also scored less that at this point last season too though, so the extra man forward hasn’t quite translated to more goals yet. I imagine we would have scored more if we had VP fit, but ones gotta say thumbs up to Chamack for holding the fort so well.
    I wonder if we’ve had more shots on target than last season?

  84. Let’s hope Squillachy and Djourou can stay injury free for the next month. Song can do it in there but i would rather not have to rely on him as a CB against the Chavs or Manure..

  85. Whilst being without (arguably) our best Defender –

    We are top of the league.

    We have scored 10 more goals than the new entertainers or world football – Spurs.

    Our goal difference is healthy, regardless of how many goals we have conceded, and we have won Away at Man City, Villa, and Everton – all games that we did not win last season, and are considered to be some of the tougher away fixtures of the season outside of the so called top 4.

    Hard to see what there is to moan about really.

  86. @ Ole…

    2 DMs. LOL. With thse ones that know better than AW, Arsenal cant win no matter what.

    What i like is that May is not that far off any more. Who know, maybe in April, we would have wrapped up so we can better prepare for the FA cup and CL finals!

  87. Which stats are those Ole? Can we have details? If they actually imply what you’re saying, they’ll be contradicting what AW himself has said and what I and most on here (including yourself previously) have observed this season. In fact, you’re the only person I’ve heard saying Song hasn’t ventured forward more this season than last.

  88. Limpar wrote about Song, over the last few, games above.
    So have others.

    But what relevance do such facts, or even stats, have to do with anything?


  89. Matt,

    1-6 at Everton last season, opening day. : )

  90. Henristic,

    This is getting ridiculous. I asked you to take a look at it, you refused. So you’ll have to take my word for it. I look at it after every game, I even sometimes blog about our average touch positions. No, Song is not playing higher up this season.

    No it doesn’t contradict what Wenger said. Because as I said before (and you called it a strawman), the fact that he goes forward does not mean he’s always forward. The key issue is what he does most of the time.

    Also when Arsene says I start with the midfielders pressing forward, it doesn’t mean that’s what they do all the time.

    It’s nuance, and you’re struggling with it.

  91. Oh yeah – i was thinking of the mid week game where RVP scored a late equaliser – must of been the season before….

    Shit – I better start moaning!

  92. Eddie will see us into the next Champ league round. Of this I have little doubt, but we while beat Partisan too

  93. Grrr, work. while =will

  94. Nice post as always Yogi. Great to top the table. I have not made any plans for a title winning celebration yet but getting to the top is obviously the first step. Hopefully we can build on this and get a good win or draw at OT and stay on top.

    I guess the boss is an adrenaline junky. I would have thought his heart rate could use a rest after the last couple of years. He said after last year and the year before that he wanted us to concede fewer goals and now he is talking about the high risk tactics we use. A bit difficult to understand. I guess a zebra can not change its stripes. We do create chances but even with the defensive risk we are only scoring slightly more then 2 goals per game. Emulating Barca and the Spanish national team is great if we could mimic their results. Unfortunately we have not had anywhere near the success keeping the ball out of the back of our own net as those 2 sides. I guess I will just grit my teeth and cross all my fingers and hope that we can somehow win the PL title.

  95. I’d like to see Sergio ‘Freefall’ Busquets in the PL.
    I’m sure he has the ability, but he’d have to adjust his ‘style’ of play.
    So too would FC BBB. Is it that hard to comprehend? Most kids who play football seem to understand such stuff.

    There is one worthy consideration. Djourou and Squillaci are not AFC’s two quickest CB’s.
    Though, Djourou is returning from a long absence.
    I agree with YW. Last season Djourou, the timing of his injury, was a huge loss. The obvious candidates above, did not think so, but do like to spend time worring about the D-Fence. I know, I know…it is a bizarre contradiction. A lost cause. A good thing they are more often right then wrong.

    The way the team sets up against Belgrade will be interesting.

  96. Djourou has pace though!

  97. Why hasn’t Bale been nominated for world player of the year!

  98. Don’t you get bored of football, Bill? I mean you still haven’t got a fucking clue about Arsenal, so I only ask, as it’s a bit like me posting on a fencing forum day after day, showing a complete catatonic inability to understand the finer points of the sport, and instead gurgling on – purblind to the nuances of the thing – saying, “Well, if I kept my arms crossed the whole time he wouldn’t be able to poke me.”

    Ah well. Keep your fingers crossed and maybe, somehow, by some strange twist of fate we’ll keep winning.

  99. Ole,

  100. Limestonegunner

    YW, I think your post is a bit unfair to Jack Wilshere. I’ll admit his form has dipped a bit since his suspension and possibly disrupted the momentum he had developed getting regular first team play and starts because of injuries to those more experienced than him. However, he overall has been very good and before the suspension was really excellent. Defensively, he has been steely and determined. Of course, he lost his head for the red card foul on Zigic and he got a cheap yellow in the first half reacting to losing the ball on an unnecessary trick move inside his own half in the Sunderland game (I believe). However, that same game he played the entire second half, and much of it with 10 men because Song got a second yellow, in a very composed and mature fashion– and you would have expected the more experienced Song to demonstrate those qualities more than Jack.

    He may be inexperienced, and for that any defensive lapses like those two mentioned ought to be excused as you suggest, but he has proven to be very solid defensively, to the extent that Wenger has dismissed the need for another DM earlier this year not by saying Song is enough but that Wilshere can and is playing deep. If you want to point a finger at Jack, I think you are obliged to talk more specifically about how and whether he has not been rotating back and covering properly. I’m willing to be convinced that his inexperience has contributed to defensive weakness or disorganization in the midfield that has exposed the back line, but I think this has to be shown rather than asserted.

    He has had to shoulder a great deal of responsibility but he has earned his place. He is a more naturally gifted attacker than either Denilson or Song, so if there is a preference among them for playing the box to box role, I’d rather have him pushing forward. However, he has shown a real relish and discipline for playing possession and defensive roles for which he should be applauded, in my view.

  101. Man, this is just awful. I simply can’t believe the attitude. Like a nagging wife…always complaining…no matter how it goes, it’s never good enough…

  102. Limpar:

    Someone must have put grumpy pills in your last pint.

    Agree with Finsbury. Interesting to see how we set up for the Belgrade game with ManU looming this weekend. Need a win to be certain of advancing in the CL. Lots of money and and our streak of making the knock out stages every year on the line in midweek. Is that a finer point?

  103. We’ve been (I have been) unfair to people complaining about defensive midfield.

    What they’re really saying is that they think Arsenal should play with a Makelele-type 3rd centre back, instead of any more sophisticated scheme.

    In that respect you could say we have a problem in that position.

    Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid play with Khedira and Xabi Alonso. Alonso is not a holding midfielder. He’s just a deep-lying play maker. And Khedira, if you’ve watched him does more than just sit.

    Few teams maintain the 3rd centre back as holding midfielder, Chelsea being one.

    Many times Man Utd don’t really have a tackling, breaking up play holding midfielder. If you look at the tackling stats of the players who actually hold for them, Fletcher & Carrick you’d find they don’t do much tackling most games. Fletcher of course ‘puts himself about’ more than Carrick. Neither is Makelele or a 3rd centre back.

    Barcelona have Busquets who literally sometimes drops back btw the 2 centre backs, and other times plays high up the field.

    That Makelele-type midfielder is rarer than people think it is at the top clubs.

  104. If you agree with me, it means you disagree with yourself Bill.

    I liked Everton’s goal.
    Chel$ki obviously need to buy a defender who can ‘head’ the ball.

    F*ck me, Newcastle FC are a joke

  105. Limestonegunner

    Ole, since you do agree that we have problems in defense (something that not everyone on this blog would agree with) but you debate those who are critical of our defensive performance, it would benefit to have from you a more sustained examination and analysis of what the issues are and how they can perhaps be remedied. All you have provided so far is a rundown of the bad goals/unlucky goals we’ve conceded in few recent games. That suggests there isn’t a problem at all, just a flukey unlucky patch.

    Please clarify, as I would like to understand what you mean in all this. If there is enlightenment to be had, by George, let’s have it!

  106. Has there ever been a bigger imbecile in charge of a football club than Mike Ashley?

  107. Limestonegunner,

    You have a point you little devil (or big devil).

    I disagree with the criticism of Song. I disagree with the notion that our defenders are not good enough or soft.

  108. Newcastle sack,Houghton truely the world has gone mad!

  109. The Barca comparison is way off.
    Busquets is much more defensive than Song, and is a far better player. As stated, when Puyol or Pique take turns to go forward, Sergio B drops back to replace them as CB, and Abidal will move more central to keep 3 at the back.

    Sergio sometimes goes forward, usually when Barca are already cruising at 2 or 3 goals up, not when it is 0-0 and they do not want to concede

  110. What’s this?

    Those Geordie are gonna riot. It’s utter lunacy.

  111. Ole:

    A Makelele type player worked very well for that Chelsea team but it is not the only way to play. I do not think anyone would really care how we set up if we were conceding fewer goals. Complaining about Song is simple and most jump on that bandwagon since there is no good explanation. I suspect the real issue is much more difficult to understand. (except by those with a much greater grasp of the finer points)

  112. Limestonegunner

    The Barca vs. Arsenal comparison is a bit strange argumentatively. Some have said Barca wouldn’t be able to play that way as successfully in the PL when we talked about Barca’s destruction of RM in the Classico last week. If that is the case, why do we want to play like them and discuss our tactics in reference to their successful pattern of play?

    Don’t we need to discover our own way style and way of playing adapted how we can play a beautiful attacking game in this league context? I think I saw this in the Villa game and versus Wolves and Everton, in response to Wenger’s declaration that we needed to play more directly. We developed a very direct attack within the context of our passing and possession game. I’d like to see more of that developed, as it was distinctive and exciting.

    I don’t think we can copy Barcelona and it would be strategically mistaken to adopt their approach. There are a great many differences in our situations. 1) Barca can recruit players more widely at a younger age for their academy–so the deep understanding they show positionally comes perhaps partly from the years of playing together. We can only approximate this and start this in most cases at an older age. 2) Barca supplement this core of academy players with very expensive experienced signings who are gifted enough to integrate into their club style of play. We don’t often recruit players at the top of their career to the club; Arshavin is the only recent example I can think of that. 3) The Spanish league has little parity–a massive gulf in quality between the top two and the rest, especially lower down the table. 4)It is a technical league where teams do try to play and are less physical. The refs protect technical play in the way they call the game; that seems very different to the PL.

    Our challenges and circumstances domestically are different. We both try to play beautiful football and have some similarities in our approach, granted. It will be a greater achievement to win with style in our league, despite the fact that it is weaker this year.

  113. Limestonegunner

    Ole, big or small, I am not playing the devil’s advocate, but if my question has bedeviled you, please take your time to provide an answer (and not just a twittery clarification of what you object to). I am genuinely interested, so perhaps you could prepare for a response to this humble request at your leisure. The debate isn’t going to go away anytime soon but it could use a more fully analyzed alternative hypothesis rather than the enjoyable polemic that we see on a daily basis.

    How about a guest column sometime this month for Ole on this topic, YW?

  114. Not long to go now, Wellington Silva:

    Song or Diaby never drop back into the CB positions?
    That would be incorrect.
    Perhaps,we’ve seen less of it this season because Vermaelan has been out injured.

  115. + Diaby!

  116. Afternoon all,

    Long time reader, first post.

    Thoroughly enjoying another roller-coaster season with the boys. Promises broken, fulfilled and broken again have toyed with the emotions in a manner only associated with being a football fan.

    I have the pleasure of visiting the Old Trafford champions section for the first time next Monday, and would like to ask the seasoned pro’s out there for recommendations on good pubs for the away fans?


  117. Chris hughton maybe a Spud, but his sacking is just not right 11th in the leave after just wing promoted! Another Ashley another ungrateful sod!!

  118. Biscuits better that Song? Oh wow…

  119. Finsbury, that commentator was fun.

  120. We’ve been through this, Limestone.

    Arsenal’s defensive problems are baffling because of two difficult to reconcile facts. We concede few chances, but a lot of goals.

    Many ways to look at the problem.

    Compare us to other top sides is one. Man Utd are conceding as many as us but we can’t use them as a benchmark if you ask me. I think they don’t have as strong a strong side as in recent seasons. If we compare to Chelsea, then I’ll say the Chelsea players are more determined, and have more cohesion at the back having played together longer. Comparing to Man City you just have to note that they don’t take the inititive or take risks to win games which is something we simply can’t learn from.

    Looking at it tactically, I don’t think we’re in a bad position because we don’t concede many chances.

    Looking at it in physical terms, our centre backs aren’t bad.

    Looking at it in terms of ability, you have to note that our centre backs are not as good in their air as the opposition. Alex, Vidic & Terry are better in the air than any of our centre backs other than Djourou. On the other hand ours have more pace, and link with team play better.

    Looking at it in terms of ‘Failure modes’ i.e. what goes wrong often, it’s hard to overlook conceding from set pieces, midfielders getting positioning wrong & messing up on counterattacks, and individual mistakes.

    This is an interesting one for me. Individual mistakes are random. So you can’t legislate for them. Contrary to what people say there’s no obvious pattern in mistakes. Vermaelen, Squillaci, Djourou, Kos, Clichy, Sagna have all made mistakes. You can’t legislate for it.

    So that leaves defending counterattacks properly, and defending set pieces. Set pieces might be hard to stamp out since all teams try to beat us that way. The reason we concede so many is partly because that’s how teams attempt to beat us. The other part is we don’t always have our tallest lineups out, and Premier League teams have become very tall. All the teams have gone out and acquired very strong sides & in a couple of seasons we’ve become a smaller side relative to them. Not sure there’s an obvious solution to this one.

    The last one is counterattacks. This one is easy to deal with. It just requires the team to be more aware of why and how these become goals.

    The question is how worried should we be about the state of our defending?

    I still think it’s worrying but it’s not deterministic or fatalistic. It’s a game of points. The important things is being able to tighten up when we need to. The ability to ‘suffer’ as the Italians would say. Backs to wall is how my father would have put it. There have been many performances to suggest we can do so. There have been performances to suggest we can’t also, but there have been more of the former than the latter. +

    One thing we shouldn’t forget is that teams let up starting december, and most top teams concede fewer goals from then on. Winning the league is about being able to beat lower placed sides. Winning cups, you need to be able to shut out the top sides.

  121. Nasri joined Arsenal on July 11, 2008.

    It is now Dec 6, 2010 and the Premier League’s website (Arsenal section) still does not have him listed as an Arsenal player.

  122. Dups

    Maybe they think he’s been transferred to Barcelona…


  123. Limestonegunner

    Ole, I am not sure we’ve been through it this thoroughly or lucidly. Thanks, I appreciate the considered response, and I am sure others do too. I’ll have to think about all the angles you cover for a bit. Again, much appreciated and lots of interesting ground covered here.

    I do agree that comparing ourselves to our competitors here isn’t necessarily the best thing to do; I’d say it doesn’t work either in terms of emulating tactics etc… or in being satisfied with our relatively comparable position. On this latter, we do want to improve so that we have the best attack and best defense, because those ingredients will help us win more games and take the league.

  124. YW,

    There might be some amusing truth in your reply.

  125. It could also be that our players are not good enough. Some complained so much about Toure. Then he went to a team that never ventures forward, is behind a 3 man screen, and suddenly, his team have the 2nd best defensive record in the league.

    Gallas is getting plaudits at Spurs for his defending.

    I think our defenders are quite good.

  126. “Has there ever been a bigger imbecile in charge of a football club than Mike Ashley?”

    Peter Ridsdale.

  127. I hear about how Song goes walkabouts, we’re exposed & it’s costing us goals. Guess who was attempting a tackle on the Fulham goal?

  128. Ole @ 5:08:

    Well written. Thanks. IMO the whole thing was spot on especially that last 2 paragraphs. We are better this year and have shown some good signs but have lacked consistency. Lets hope we can use our better performances as templates for the rest of the year.

  129. The Fulham goal resulted from a chance gifted by injury to Kos.Fair enough Kamara finished off cooly.But all said and done we still concede too frequently.It worries me.

  130. Howard ‘rentboy’ Webb the re for our game against the Mancs god help us!!

  131. YW…good post and analysis, but we have to admit that Song had his worst game in a very long time.

  132. Limestone

    “Barca can recruit players more widely at a younger age for their academy–so the deep understanding they show positionally comes perhaps partly from the years of playing together. We can only approximate this and start this in most cases at an older age.”

    Jack Wilshere — joined Arsenal age 9
    Jay Emmanuel Thomas — joined Arsenal age 7

    I could go on…

  133. Ummm, spain and Barca have this guy named sergio busquets who plays more like a center back at times than a midfielder, and his presence as a holding mid allows Xavi and Iniesta to do their thing. That said, busquets is a shame to the game of football with his antics and always diving and rolling around like the piece of shit he is.

  134. Limestone:

    I think the big advantage Barca do have over us in terms of player development is that the Barcelona “B” team if you will is allowed to compete in the Spanish league system as its own entity, but are not allowed to compete in the same league as Barca. So they play in the Spanish version of the Championship. That would be ideal for Arsenal..

  135. Maria are you serious? If I’m not mistaken he’s the onethat gave the Savior on High, Mr Match My Ambitions, that ridiculous penalty and then denied Arshavin one after Fletcher felled him?!?! “He got the ball…we ll arsha’s body, as it crumpled to the pitch got the ball… good enough i say!!”

  136. NJGooner, that was our friend Mike Dean.

  137. Midfield General featuring Noel Fielding “Midfielding”
    (sorry if linked this before):

  138. ahh dups thank you. i will admit, those quintessentially british names cause me to get all mixed up. Although I can usually identify on sight. Atkinson – small, almost shrivel man. Webb – big bald bastard.. right?

  139. Webb the penalty that never was, unbeaten run!

    Add that to Fergie time, let’s hope our special is our match winner again, against the Mancs!

  140. Just read an article on ESPN that annointed Nasri the league MVP and best player in the PL so far. Smart guy.

  141. that’s martin jol for Newcastle then…he has left Ajax by mutual consent according to the beebs

    what is it with them and ex spurs? LOL

  142. Nasir Jones-Nasri

    Ahh I see why Bill is so lost most of the time. He reads ESPN.

  143. Limestonegunner

    NJ, I know about those two examples. But Arsenal cannot bring in kids at 12 or 14 from all over the world. Messi came from Argentina at that age. If the kids are foreign or outside our designated territory, we have to wait until they are older like Cesc, Walcott, Denilson, Diaby etc… Some of those Barca boys were playing together since 12 years old even though they are not from Catalonia. Pedro, Messi, Bojan, and so on.

    I agree that the B team playing real competitive games in the third or even second division is also helpful.

  144. Limestonegunner

    NJN, so does Ole. See above.

  145. @Block 4 & Limestonegunner

    My point about Sergio Busquets is that he nominally plays the Song role for Barça and La Roja, but he isn’t limited to playing the Makelele role. Neither is Song. Against Madrid two weeks ago he played box-to-box and scored the first goal. He played as high as Song is being asked to play this year. On Saturday against Osasuna he did line up and played where Iniesta usually works. It was a sight to see. The Osasuna players were as confused as the Fulham players were to see Song winning a ball and taking a shot where Arshavin should have been.
    But none of this is new. Wenger is not copying Barcelona (Guardiola visited London Colney on Wenger’s invitation 3 years ago to learn training methods) because Vieira wasn’t static in front of the back four, so what Wenger is asking Song to do is something he always wanted his central midfielders to do: go box to box, like PV4 and Petit did. I believe that if Wenger had truly wanted another Makelele, he would have stuck with the closest clone in existence: Lassana Diarra. But he opted for Song, at the expense of the aforementioned Diarra and Flamini as well.

  146. “The issue is not Song playing higher up the pitch, more that his central partner(s) are not understanding (or maintaining) the need for rotation in terms of attack and defence. Where Spain and Barcelona have succeeded is the movement of Xavi and his fellow midfielders, their ability to hold and attack with intelligence.”

    This for me is why the game on Saturday was crying out for Denilson. He is one of the most disciplined midfield players we have. He will sacrifice personal glory and suffer the ignominy of being called ‘the crab’ in order to do what the game requires. The most efficient midfield for me is Song, Cesc, Denilson (or Diaby when the opposition is more physical). Denilson reads the game really well and will slot into those holes left when Song ventures forwards. His interceptions also help to break up opposition attacks and he helps us retain possession with his simple but effective and accurate passing.

  147. Barca spend a lot of money, somehow that seems to be overlooked.

    Re: Arsenal defence.

    Some players are new and need to get more games together to gather an understanding. As the article has stated Wilshere will learn, its also good to know that we have Denilson and Diaby (when he comes back) who can give the defense some good cover from the mid. Its positive to think we have conceded less this season than last and this without our best defender. As far as I can see, things will only get better.

    When the team has turned up and focused we have been really good defensively, when we act a fool (ie – Spurs, Shaktar, WBA etc) we get embarrassed.

    All this over analyzing is tiring to me. Its simple, the players must remain focused throughout the match and we will be fine as thats what we have seen.

    Lets enjoy this season!!!


  148. Finsbury @ 12.08 – hilarious, thank you.
    I had concussion once, when my ex-wife elbowed me between the eyes, got taken to casualty, back at work next day (driving a bus). Must be wimps these days.

  149. Paul N, I mentioned that in my post above. They buy very expensive players around their academy spine. Henry, Villa, Ibrahimovitch…

  150. Passenal, I think Wilshere can and does play the disciplined short passing and possession/ball control game that Denilson does. That’s why he is ahead of him now, because he showed he could help us retain and control the ball as well as give us a clever attacking option. Furthermore, he is faster coming back to help stop counters. He has had a slight dip and perhaps the physical demands of playing so many games so quickly are taking a toll?

  151. I did see that Limestone, just wanted to say it again as it is underestimated as far as their success goes.

  152. @Passenal
    I fully agree. If you look at Denilson 2008, he has the offensive capabilities. In 2008/2009 he contributed a lot to our offense with his passing, creating many chances and amassing 7 assists in the league. And even in the game against Fulham he showed that he still has those abilities, as evident by his beautiful cross that found Vela.
    However, as you correctly observed, he has sacrificed this side of his game to concentrate fully on his defensive duties. He only takes a risk in the sense off venturing forward, when he can be sure that it will not leave us frail at the back.
    For me, our best midfield against top class opposition (say Barca or ManU) would still consist of the three you named, while against Chelsea or similiar I agree that Diaby’s presence could make the difference. Against weaker teams that play less offensively I however think that Wilshere can offer us extra options because he is more balanced towards attack and is more likely to unlock the opposition defenses. As for Ramsey, well, to be honest, I do not seem him as the player that plays alongside Song and Cesc, but rather, as Cesc’s direct replacement.

  153. Paul N., what do you think about the whole comparison of Arsenal and Barca? I don’t think the situations in their domestic leagues are comparable.

  154. Top of the table!

  155. Limestonegunner, I’m not saying Wilshere does not have his place, but on Saturday he was not doing it for me and I just thought Denilson would have been the better option in that game.

  156. I checked this morning, and what do you know? We’re still top of the league!
    Up yours my annoying manu office mate!

  157. Well it looks like plenty of people don’t agree that Song should play a more disciplined defensive role. I’m quite happy to agree to disagree. The question then remains, how do we set up to concede less goals if all the midfielders as well as the full-backs are allowed to push on? I think that’s a legitimate question as I can’t see us winning the league conceding as many goals as we do.

  158. What Wenger has said so simply solves a lot of the ‘mystery’ of Song’s forays upfield, and the successes and challenges of that. It obviously works, we are top of the table and have won some interesting away games, using this method. One returns to that concept of “team defence” when we lose the ball, but Song has been effective even so.

    I think it would be a good idea to beat ManU @ OT. I wonder …

  159. Block4, as long as there is a man covering back and the important tackles get made – what does it matter. The point of Song’s ‘attacking role’ (which has been overstated here) is that he a) offers another passing option ahead of the ball (every so often) to keep a move going, and to keep the opposing team switching who they mark, and b) to tackle and intercept further up the pitch.

    This means that many of the attacks you might like Song to be mopping up in front of the back4 get culled at birth in the opposition’s half instead and turned into Arsenal possession. We’ve had many opportunities off the back of a Song challenge high up the pitch already this season.

    If you watch Alex Song – as Ole Gunner said at length – he still earns his pay, in the most part, tackling and intercepting and challenging for the ball inside his own half (around about the halfway line at home, and dropped in a little deeper away; naturally, according to the difference in possession). Look at the tackles he makes… he tackles in and around the outside of the box – when it is needed – just as he always has done. Look at the goals we have conceded so far this season and see how many you can attribute to Song’s being out of position too far up the pitch. Then look at the goals he has been involved in. And add it all up. (Goals conceded/scored this season vs. last is a whopping great red herring, for obvious reasons).

    So, as long as someone is there to make that tackle the advantages of having an extra option in an attacking move far, far outweigh the “high risk” of us being caught short because of it. Having said all that, Song has sat pretty deep these last few games so I don’t know what all the fuss is about suddenly.

    Shouting at Song to get back and defend is natural when we’re all on edge with a one-goal cushion; and when the opposition have the ball he will be doing exactly that – worry you not. It’s just when he does have the ball he’ll look to get forward and create, just like any of our players would, and just as he pretty much always has done.

  160. Sorry… long, boring post.


    How do you reckon Frank would like it if we had a whip around and got him one of these for Christmas? I think the plain one at the top. Nifty squid. Just with ‘Frank’ on it.

  161. LA at 9:53am,

    Agree.. Also, I can remember him joining the back 4 while defending and make few clearances from the 18-yard box..

    I wonder whether people who make such remarks watch the full game.. They may only be watching the highlights..

  162. Yes, IG, he’s very useful in the box – though sometimes his clearances don’t go quite as far as you might like them to. Unlike Johan Djourou for example, who routinely clears the halfway line.

    One thing Song is prone to do, not often, but occassionally, is to have a small sulk when he feels he’s been hard done by. Sometimes he’ll run straight off and get back in position (when he knows he’s comitted the foul I think), but if unjustly penalised he can have a little head down, “Oh for fuck sake, ref” moment. Against Fulham Jack Wilshere was yelling bloody murder at him to stop complaining and get back in position – which he quickly did. I’m sure the favour is returned when the shoe is on the other foot, but Jack is noticeably good at stoking the concentration of those around him – with those pleading little eyes and the constant clapping and shouting. I think he’s learnt it off Cesc.

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