Was it just personal mistakes letting us down against Man United? by AndersS
Nobody wants a failure. Against Man United we failed, there is no other way to put it. We lost at home by 2 goals, and in truth, that is really bad. But in failure, there often lies the opportunity to learn and become stronger.
If we put the defeat down to Koscielny and Mustafi having a very rare off-day combined with bad luck in front of goal, we learn nothing. Of course, in theory, it could be the right explanation, and there is nothing more to it. I don’t buy that. Mainly because we have seen the same happening so many times before that it really is very unlikely it was just a bad day. There is more to it.
True, Koscielny had a really bad day. A horrible pass from him and a bad judgement from Kolasinac led to the first goal. On the third goal Koscielny should never have tried to get at the ball, he should just have prevented a cross. Mustafi also made a huge mistake costing us the second goal. All this can’t be denied. But those mistakes didn’t come “out of nothing”.
In the last 10-15 years football has changed quite a bit, in the way that many teams now use more or less their whole team to defend, when the opponents have the ball. And as an additional, some teams use the attackers and the midfielders in quick, organized and intensive pressing high up on the field right after losing the ball.
Most noticeably, teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich have used this formula for many years with great success. In fact it would be hard to find winning teams in any big national league or in European competitions that don’t use this formula, or at least use the whole team to defend.
Unfortunately, neither has ever really been applied by Arsenal under Wenger. At least not as an integrated part of the teams tactics on a regular basis. Many of our attacking players have been allowed not to work hard after losing the ball and pressing has always been just an individual activity by hard working players like Sanchez, resulting in no real press at all. It requires more than that.
But how can this have anything to do, with Koscielny’s and Mustafi’s mistakes? The answer is; it could have everything to do with it.
The first 2 goals came from Man United’s pressing. It was clearly Mourinho’s tactics, that when Man U lost the ball everybody on the team should press quickly and intensively, also the 2 front men. And they did, and they forced the mistakes on Koscielny and Mustafi. Why? Because our defenders have never been good at playing against high and intensive pressing.
The reason for this could very well lie in the reality, that they never experience it in training. When our offensive player aren’t taught to press in training, our defenders aren’t experiencing how to deal with it. So when our defenders occasionally are exposed to it from strong teams, they are more likely to make mistakes. That is why it happens.
To complete the picture, Man U’s third goal also could be put down to an old weakness in our defence. We have so often been exposed by teams sitting back and waiting for the opportunity, that their quick attackers could hit us on the break. Making us look like dominating the game, but ending up losing.
If you look closely at the game again, you can notice, Mourinho’s high, intensive press, right after losing the ball, was combined with a different approach. When we managed to get past their press and into Man U’s half, Mourinho allowed his 2 front men to stay up near the halfway line, while the rest of the team sat deep. When we lost the ball, their tactic was to get the ball very quickly up to the front men allowing them to run with our defenders alone. Something Liverpool and others have done to us many times. This is where the third goal came from.
So there are 2 ways to look at it:
1) Our loss to Man U was due to a bad day, mostly from our defenders, and next time it will automatically get better….. or
2) Our loss to Man U was in fact the old story of familiar weaknesses, and it will happen again, if we don’t learn and adapt to modern football
What do you think?