TACTICAL VS LOGICAL by JA
Hey guys, hope you are all okay. I just thought I’d pop in with a word about the Arsenal squad again.
So, there’s a whole lot of transfer window hysteria down in the comments section, most of the fans claim we have no chance of winning the premier league with the squad we have at the moment.
Some of the arguments are about cover for a defensive midfielder and a top class striker. Well, I’m one of those that’s on the fence as to if whether we desperately need all that cover right now. Some people argue, that Mikel Arteta is way too old to have any impact on the squad right now, which I disagree with, and others say our striking line could use an addition, which I DO agree with. Others say that if Walcott is to move to a central striking position, then we should sign a winger, an argument, which with no offence to those that back it, I find illogical – and that is where I’ll start today.
First, from the logical point of view, we all know that Walcott has always been played on the flank, but has recently shown the potential to play leading the line. This means he can do both. Theo is not the only player in the team notrthe only forward as well. Buying another winger because Theo has moved upfront, would just cause us to have one of the two underperforming. Either Theo would suffer from a lack of games or the new winger would have to.
Besides that, you have Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey all capable of playing there with varying levels of effectiveness (and the varying is on the high end). Bringing a player like Reus, although mouthwatering, would kill the career of the Ox. And despite all his injuries, anyone who actually watched him would know that he was beginning to show signs of a step forward last term. At the moment, his contributions are more of those that cannot be statistically expressed, because I don’t know if anyone collects stats regarding work rate and penetration, but all that is left is to add those that crank up his numbers. If you look at it really, it’s a similar situation to Aaron Ramsey in 2012-13.
Now from the tactical point of view, not every time you see someone depicted as a center forward on your TV screen at the beginning of a match, they actually are. Sometimes, the “number nine”, is not really the guy jostling with center backs. A coach can sacrifice a flank to accommodate his striker there. A case in point, at Real Madrid, Karim Benzema always starts out in the center forward position. At the end of moves, it’s usually CR7. It’s not a coincidence my friends, it’s planned, trained and rehearsed over and over again. Kroos, Modric, Benzema all know that the man is gonna be there when we finally get it into the box. The last time Spurs had Gareth Bale, we noticed that despite fielding a striker, most of the ball was actually played in behind the striker. This was a planned tactical decoy. It pushed the opposition defence back, leaving the midfield high creating space for Bale, who was actually their forward at the time. Coming back to Arsenal , we could very well have Walcott on the flank and use Giroud in the center forward position, similarly to how Madrid use Benzema, in full knowledge that Theo would be moving to try and outmaneuver his fullback, or find a gap between the fullback and center back .
Now back into the middle. Francis Coquelin has had a great time in the middle of the pack. He marks well, moves well and defends well. The standing argument is who to play when Le Coq isn’t? Most people are, dare I say, frightened by the idea that Arteta could be the only back up.
Logically, I don’t see the cause for alarm regarding Arteta’s presence for two reasons.
1/ Ever since the Invincible season, Arsenal has had a squad littered with very talented youths who pretty much had no leaders. Their lack of respect for their superiors cost them their careers because stardom got to them real quick. In the book Ashley Cole wrote after he left Arsenal he claimed that a young player mocked Martin Keown while being advised about how to play, asking “who are you to talk to me?”. The player wasn’t mentioned in the book but was suspected to be Phillip Senderose. RVP (and Nasri) was also pinpointed for snob behaviour. Now he’s being hawked around Europe by his employers without his knowledge. My point is, regardless of how good young players might be, the ‘been there, done that’ influence of a senior player always comes to light.
2/ If Le Coq really is the number one DM in the team, then we expect him to play at least 70% of the first team fixtures, and at least 65% at the very top of his game. 70% of 38 in the premier league is about 27 games. That leaves 11 games where he can be rested. Out of all the teams in the league there’s got to be games where you just don’t need a defensive midfielder because he’s a passenger, games where you need a defensive mid who is a ball player and games where you need an experienced head to slow the game down and see out a 1-0 win. All these games could be part of the 11 left. Can you definitively assure me, that an Arteta who played 34 matches in his inaugural season (where Arsenal only won one or two games without him and desperately had to field him in the final game of the season) and 31 the next season, has had his body deteriorate so far that it can’t handle 5-10 starts and a couple of substitute appearances? I doubt it. Secondly , which top class starter at another team is going to want to come and play 11-15 premier league games when he can be a starter just by staying where he is ? Why would we want to dump Le Coq after he’s finally come good at the best possible time?
Tactically, bar last season, where Arteta has had a niggly ankle, I’ve not really seen him drop clangers in the middle. Most of you will say Le Coq has improved the midfield, and so will I, but the fact is, he’s more protected than Arteta. In Alex Song’s last season Arteta was often left alone in the hole while Song wandered off to go try his hand at being Xavi, no wonder we lost more games with Song holding alone that we did with Arteta holding alone.
You might say that Arteta is not a real holding mid, but he started his career there with Barcelona. In fact he was once mooted as the replacement to Guardiola but he just didn’t want to wait too long for first team football. He only moved into a more attacking role when he joined PSG. In 2012/13 this guy had the following numbers; 75/108 tackles 19/24 take ons, 35/67 aerial duels, 66.9% of his successful passes were forward. Find me a defensive mid out there, who is currently a backup for his team, with similar or better stats Trust me, you’ll struggle.
To sum it all up, despite the fact that there are players out there that are better that some of what we have, many of them will just cause disharmony in one way or another. I sure as heaven want another striker to give us more goals as long as it doesn’t mean we lose the goals we have in the team right now. If striker x comes from outside and scores 25 goals, with striker y who is already here scoring 15, I’m happy. Quite similar to the way Alexis fitted in. But if striker x comes in with 30 goals causing striker y who is here to score 3, then you can keep striker x because we now have 33 goals as opposed to 40.
Till next time, Gunner from Kampala, Have you a good time