Detailed Look At Our Left Channel Weakness Against Bolton

I believe there is a general consensus that our left side was quite weak against Bolton. It’s not rocket science and most of us saw that their attacks originated mostly from the right channel. We were under pressure in the second half and I thought it might make sense to analyze this in detail. I have taken the 45-70 minute period for this analysis. The following image clearly shows that Bolton attacked mainly through the right.

Traore was widely criticized for his performance in this game with many people, including myself, wondering what’s happened to his game. One thought that bothered me was, would a player who has had a good start suddenly perform poorly in a couple of games? It is possible but there could be other reasons as well. So I looked at the involvement of Arshavin, Eduardo, Diaby and Eastmond during this period.

The following image shows the passes made by each of these players in this period.

Apart from Diaby no one really had any contribution on the left channel, especially in a defensive role. I know that Eastmond was substituted just after the hour mark and there is no point in criticizing a young debutant but Song would certainly have given Traore more support.

Similarly both Eduardo and Arshavin failed to track back. I think Dudu was playing up front and can be excused to some extent. In this case the bulk of the blame would fall on the Russian master for not doing enough to help the defense. AA23 recognizes this problem and was quite honest about it while speaking to his website

We changed the scheme of the game today. My task was to play left field. I was not able to fully help out in the defense but thanks to the guys who corrected my flaws.

I am not sure if he was aware of this during the game or if Wenger pointed it out to him later on. My guess is that it would have been later as it’s difficult to think he wouldn’t have corrected the problem if he had realized it on the pitch. Although, one can always ask why didn’t he get the message from the bench during the game?!

The point of this article is not to blame Eastmond or Arshavin, nor am I trying to defend Traore. The point is, sometimes we see some problems during the games and jump to the obvious conclusion but the truth might be much more complex.

I don’t claim that these images prove anything conclusively. I would certainly like to see data on where players received the passes and how they ran during this period. In the absence of other details these images do give us enough food for thought.

My conclusion is that Traore didn’t get enough support from the DM or the left sided attacking player and under pressure he made some mistakes. We will have to address this balance against the bigger teams with more clinical finishers. I guess this is one of the reasons for Eduardo playing on the left in stead of Arshavin and we might see him back in that position for the return fixture.

In case you want to explore further, do visit the guardian chalkboards. I look forward to reading your thoughts on the subject.

25 Responses to Detailed Look At Our Left Channel Weakness Against Bolton

  1. Arsenal4 says:

    Nice. While the disussion is academical, I think it also mainly driven Bolton best player on attackinis on the right. I also have a feeling that Owen coyle did his home work and noticed that Traore is the most person that’s struggling when we played everton. Overall, while he needs more support, Traore can also learn to be a better a defender.

    • desigunner says:

      Traore definitely needs some work before he becomes a world class left back. I think his positioning sense, technique in one on one situations and balance while turning need to improve.

  2. Taufik HK says:

    what a scientific analysis ! keep up a good work man !

  3. Ravenous says:

    Very nice analysis. Thanks

  4. SomeRandomGunner says:

    We have always played with almost two DMs (or shared the defensive duties) from what i have seen one plays predominantly on left and other on right. Apart from Arshavin think Diaby had to help more. Also I thought Cesc played the holding role when Eastmond left, Cesc was playing very deep in the whole second half.

    • desigunner says:

      I used to think that but the passing charts didn’t show me anything like that. Since we spend most of the time in the opposition half, Song and Denilson spent a lot of time just inside their half but not limited to any one side.

      Of course the important point is that both were alert to defensive requirements, something that Diaby could have done better.

      Cesc took a deeper position after Merida came on to the pitch but it didn’t exactly look like a holding role as he always tried to move forward.

      • SomeRandomGunner says:

        See the stats when both song and Denilson were playing.

        Now without Denilson we do not seem to get the
        balance right, see the tottenham match stats below. Both Diaby and Song seem to tilt to one side.

        And regarding Cesc yeah we did not have a DM
        at that point, I made that point because
        everybody seems to be suggesting that Diaby
        was holding. Cesc was playing deepest MF.

        Either without Denilson or Song whoever playing DM has to cover lot of ground.

      • desigunner says:

        SRG, nice comparisons and i’m sorry the comment was held up for moderation due to the number of links.

        In the first game against Everton I thought this was distinct and that’s what made me feel we will have two DM’s. But over the season I think Song has developed into a much stronger player and liberated the second DM to some extent.

        If you see against United, especially in our own half the distinction is not that clear as it is in the Everton game.

        I think without Song we should revert to the two DM approach but right now it seems to be working so let’s see what Le Boss does.

        Off topic, are you from NIT Trichy? I ask because I am an alumnus of REC Trichy i.e. a few years before it was renamed.

      • SomeRandomGunner says:

        I think the distinction is very clear in all the matches Denilson and Song played. When only one of them playing they had to cover the entire midfield see stats when only one of them playing. Both song and Denilson have covered so much ground when they were playing alone and definitely others are not helping them much. It is just Ramsey or Eastmond cannot do that they need to have somebody to help them.
        Yes I am also an alumnus of NIT Trichy.

  5. Ravenous says:

    I know Vermalen is capable of playing in DM position. I saw him play in this spot in Ajax, he did a good job back then.

    • desigunner says:

      I am convinced TV5 can excel in almost any position as he is naturally talented. But breaking the center back partnership could be very risky.

  6. Diceman1984 says:

    It’s a combination of things to me. Anyone can have an off day too.

    But I can’t wait for Song to return, though Diaby is stepping up his game and did it in back to back games now.

  7. hmm... says:

    problem with arsenal defence is that no one really wants to take responsibility…and that problem buds in from lack of communication wit ur central defender…i.e gallas….

  8. Karthik says:

    One factor everyone overlooks is the “drifting” of the back line. As Sagna pushes forward, Gallas drifts to fill in the void, Vermaelen does the same to lessen the central gap, and Traore drifts into a LCB/LB position, simply because the gaps in the central areas have to be covered. It happens in every game, and Bolton’s best player plays down this channel, so does Donovan. Traore sometimes forgets he is not a central defender as is evident from the Everton game, when Arsenal effectively played without a LB when Sagna pushed forward.Le Boss needs to address that.

    • desigunner says:

      My understanding on this issue is that teams tend to defend narrow and try to force opposition wide. Then with the wide players tracking back it’s tougher for them to create chances.

      When our full backs push forward we leave big gaps on both channels, something that teams like Fulham have learnt to exploit.

      It also depends on the oppositions abilities and the areas they like to exploit. I think Traore struggled a bit because he lost one on ones with some opposition players on the wings. He also loses his balance on the turn at times. Otherwise even if you leave a lot of space on the flanks the danger can be, well, tackled.

  9. bobbygee says:

    Great charts and break down of the match. How much of this right sided attack was forced by the defense. This is just a guess. Maybe Arsenal’s scouting report stated it was best to force the Wanderers up the right side. I don’t know. Or maybe Bolton though the best way to attack Arsenal was on the right.This would be a good question to ask Wenger. I wish someone in the press would ask this question. Thanks spam bobby

  10. Sonu says:

    Hey DG.I have been following your blog for quite some time and I have to say I am very impressed by your inquisitive style of writing and detailed analysis(atleast to some extent).
    Regarding Traore,I would like to add that since Clichy’s return was on the cards soon he was trying too hard and didn’t play his normal game and he knew that this would be his last game and wouldn’t be considered for a while which might have influenced his bad performance.Also in the bolton game it was diaby who was on the left from 45-60 min mark who didnt do enough to help out Traore.I am just speculating though but I think he did a decent job until now for a 3rd choice LB.So hope he continues to learn and become a better player for Arsenal.

    • desigunner says:

      Thanks Sonu.

      Traore was excellent considering he was third choice but he wont want to be that all his life. As you said, hope he continues to learn and improve.

  11. Gr8 read U have become my daily morning breakfast desi
    I this one would enlighten even more
    ” Armand Traore who was caught indecisive, not just because of his tender age, but also for the lack of cover in front of him

  12. Tazz says:

    You are very right in not criticising Traore, which would have been an easy way to reach a conclusion here. Infact even Arsha can be spared given that he is more of an attack-minded player and has played out of position all season. This article reminds me of the Invincible era, when the holy trinity of Titi-Bobby-Cashley almost camouflaged each other amidst the North Bank. Ahh, nostalgia hurts!

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