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A Lack of Variety Kills Arsenal's Title Challenge

The defeat to Manchester City suffered the same attacking fate that seems to be the norm when teams play Arsenal; park the defense in front of the box with two banks of four and The Gunners will fail to score. It is common knowledge that if you let Arsenal play you will get beaten therefore the tactic applied by ‘weaker’ clubs. When Arsenal play bigger sides the game is usually more open which allows us to play our normal game and hence why the Champions League provides us a better chance winning.

Arsenal are not expected to roll over every team but recent failures against teams such as Sunderland and Hull were emphatically put away by Chelsea (5-0 and 4-0) and Man United (4-3 v Hull). These two sides never have to change their style whoever they play even if these clubs defend for the whole game. However when the Gunners play them there is talk of us needing to change our style to break them down.

As an aspiring coach I would say I come from the same school of coaching as Arsene Wenger but the current side lacks the dynamism and inventiveness of the Invincibles and even the team last year who came so close to winning the title.

Arsenal have some of the most technically gifted players in the Premiership and against City they showed just that; passing the ball around hoping to find a gap in the defence. However there was no penetration; no other way round getting through the defence and by putting men in front of the box City knew what they had to do to stop Arsenal from scoring. As a result more energy and players was used (full backs) and when City got the ball could counter attack as those players had committed themselves forward. The wingers are not natural wingers but their unwillingness to attack the full back was a problem as crosses could not be delivered. The Man City players knew this and so did the Arsenal strikers. It is evident that the strikers have a lack of confidence when the ball reaches wide areas that they don’t gamble in the box.

And what about shooting from outside the box. Some people say Frank shoots too often, but he says he does it to force a defender to come and block him. If they don’t, he has a crack and if they do, then he can slip in a forward in the vacant space. The defenders’ mind, for a split second will be that a shot is going to be co their way, drawing them out and creating space.

So much is expected of Cesc Fabregas and now that Hleb has left the secondary creative is needed. Hleb’s superior dribbling ability could take defenders out and create space for others. You can almost say he was the type of player who assisted the assister.

If you look at the clubs Arsenal have dropped points off this season the matches all followed the same formula and in truth the Gunners should have maximum points. Fulham, Hull, Aston Villa, Man City. Stoke and Tottenham you can maybe argue played differently from the others. Sometimes we made our way round the defensive tactics such as against Everton or West Ham but overall it has cost us.

Arsenal have some great players still to come back from injury; Adebayor, Sagna, Eduardo, Rosicky and Walcott who can change the fortunes of the club and add more variety. The Gunners were so close to winning the title last season and only a couple more changes in personnel were required to take the Gunners’ to the next step. Maybe next season then.

For more opinion pieces and Arsenal news visit The Arsenal Column.

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