Are Arsenal becoming a one-half wonder!

Are Arsenal starting to get a bit predictable in their approach? by SE

Arsenal in the past have been accused of being a bit naïve in the way they approach the massive Premier League games, as Arsene Wenger seems to build his gameplan around attacking his opponents and place relatively less emphasis on good defending. At times this season, however, we have seen the French manager take a more flexible route, set his side up a lot more defensively and then reap the rewards for being more pragmatic. The question, though, is: are the Gunners overdoing their defensive game-plan and failing to strike that balance between defense and attack?

During last weekend’s away clash against Newcastle United, Arsenal were guilty of inviting pressure on themselves and quite lucky to not concede that equalizer the hosts were worthy of. They were utterly dominant in the first half, scoring those two goals that we all thought would be enough to see them through quite comfortably. However, the tale of the second half was a stark contrast of the way the first period panned out and to be honest, Wenger would have been gutted if his side failed to come away with all three points.

The North Londoners completed 221 of their 274 attempted passes in the first half, vindicating their sheer dominance over John Carver’s men. However, in the second period, Wenger’s wizards attempted a mere 167 passes, going on to complete just 119 of them. The hosts came back strongly in the second half, when Arsenal took things for granted and started sinking deep into their own half, as Newcastle attempted a mammoth 266 passes, which is almost 100 more passes than their North London opponents, and completing an impressive 221 of them.

Last Saturday’s hosts ended the game with 51% possession, which was a consequence of them controlling the game in the second 45 minutes and playing with the massive confidence they gained after Moussa Sissoko halved the deficit in the 48th minute. Wenger looked really frustrated throughout the second period, when his side stopped playing and over-relied on Newcastle’s ineptitude to come up with that equalizer.

It was not for the first time this season that Arsenal failed to continue their imperious display from the first half, as they lost the North London derby last month because of their intention to sit back and rely heavily on quick counterattacks to win the game. Last Saturday’s game against Newcastle might have come at the right time for Arsenal, who still have the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United to play in their 2014/15 Barclays Premier League campaign, and ideally need to guard against such complacency if they are to continue this 6-match unbeaten streak and achieve a top 4 league finish.

Suhith Kumar

Tags Newcastle Sissoko Wenger


  1. Perfectly explicable after giving a lot in Monaco in the same week. Or do you think a game at Newcastle is a walk in the park?

  2. Play ‘perfectly’ and lose 2 or 3 points or be a one half wonder and go home with 3points? I am for the latter

    1. Why not aim for perfection and the 3 points? ‘Shoot for the moon and if you miss you’ll still land among the stars’

      Yes it worked vs Newcastle, and yes midweek exploits were probably good cause to drop off…but great teams want every detail to be perfect.

      Our squad rotation could be improved quite a bit, we rely heavily on the same 13 or so. Players like Rosicky, Theo, Akpom, even Flamini go stale on the bench, and others like Podolski, Jenks are loaned out. All these players are good enough to play vs 70% of the teams we face, and should be better utilised to keep our “best” lot fresh IMO.

  3. Arsenal plays only good when all hope is lost. Without pressure we are beast, with it we are poor and not to be taken seriosly.

    1. You’ve spoken the truth and gotten dislikes,the game that mattered was the home leg against Monaco and we lost that 3-1 we were never gonna turn that around history of the champions league has shown this,the 2nd leg was a no pressure game because we were never going to make it anyways like against Bayern and AC Milan the previous years!

  4. I don’t care how they play. Manure won and City won. We got 3 points too. That is all that is important.

  5. I disagree with you. The Gunners have won somewhere around 42 games out of 43 when they lead at halftime. The only loss is NLD. This approach is working for us. We have the players to do that as the stats suggest. The only issue is we are not killing the games in counter attack in 2nd half. In all matches we are getting plenty of chances in counter attcack but the final pass is lacking. Against Newcastle, I remember plenty of such opportunity. Kike Ramsey blocked two clear cut chances for Giroud, two balls was supposed to come to Giroud both blocked by Ramsey one of them was called offside, giroud was in much better position to score, Welbek missed glorious chances.
    Its just we have to be more clinical, the we would be winning these matches 3-1 or 4-1 instead of 2-1 or 1-0

  6. Our problem is when we go into our defensive shell we really struggle to move the ball around for counter attacks or just to reset our positions. I won’t blame Coquelin for this as he isn’t in the team for his passing, but when we regain the ball the midfield is not dynamic enough to shift gear from reverse into forward. Against Newcastle we made a tactical error playing Cazorla as B2B and Ramsey as CAM (I don’t get why we did that). Cazorla CAN switch play from defence to attack, but Ramsey is better at that. Conversely Cazorla is better receiving the ball and being the pivot for which to set off the counter and Ramsey will tend to drive forward instead of ship the ball from that position.

    It’s notable that when we have these bad halves of football (or whole games) it is usually down to unforced errors with our passing and players unable to balance their game between attack and defence. We also need some of our players to toughen up their 50-50 challenges – Welbeck once again missed a 70-30 in his favour and left space for Newcastle to attack for their goal. I’m not pointing the finger – I think everyone bar Giroud and Coquelin has space to improve in that respect. We cannot be wishy washy in defence even for a moment if we are going to adopt the defensive mindset. AND when we win that ball we just need to make our passes stick. Not everything has to be counter attack. Sometimes it is better to shift the ball around, tire the opposition, regain our positions and then have a controlled attack. Balance between the two is better than going all in on one style. Remember – we’ve got the quality to attack two banks of 4 and break them down. Counters are great but they’re also sapping and easy to fluff. Being able to switch up your play is far more useful.

    And as the saying goes – the opposition can’t score unless they have the ball. Sometimes a bit of possession is far more useful than defending like a wall.

  7. We started so well against newc and newc started badly, we have seen many times that when things suddenly change from easy to difficult it is hard to up your game or get out of simple mindset. We held out and it was the right thing to do. I think you do have valid point but this game was not the right game to make point.

  8. manure only beat newcastle with a goal in the last minute !!and we played a cl game,a cup game before that game it was to be expected!!

  9. The problem arises when the opposition decided to press, rush, pressure, get stuck in, play intense football. When our opposition do this then we are like little girls, we can’t handle high energy, high intensity and high pressing football from the opposing team, we always struggle (Dortmund, Liverpool, Anderlecht, Besiktas, Monaco home, Spuds, Southampton away,etc..).

    Crystal palace, Leicester, QPR, Newcastle etc all stepped up their pressing games and we were all over the place, having more quality individual players gets us out of problems, but when we come up against teams on somewhat our level or better then us we mostly lose or draw at best.

  10. Yeah, we have to have a solution for this kind of oppositions’ approach. I think AW have identified it specially at the Newcastle second half game time.

  11. I wish Wenger can try 3-2-3-2 formation vs Man u away, Liverpool away and Chelsea @home for reason being I think this way we can defend better in most attacking side.
    Per KOS Gebreal
    Coq Ramsey

    Ozil Cazorla Sanchez
    Welback Girud

    this team will be very balanced and good going forward and
    also will Control the middle very well and out number the opponents in the middle.

    1. That is possibly the single most narrow team I’ve ever seen. You realise that Chelsea, United and Liverpool have all got dangerous wingers right? And you realise Per is instantly cut out of the game if he has to step outside of the centre? And you realise versus any decent attack you will be playing with holes between EVERY line of play? This would be the biggest train wreck known to football even before you consider the fact it takes a team a while to adjust to a new formation.

  12. The problem is that Arsenal don’t know how to hold the ball when the have a lead in the last 20 minutes. They should be passing the ball around making the defense chase and then going for goal only if an opening arises. But they don’t do this. Chelsea are much better at killing the game off.

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