It’s not often that international friendlies have any interesting fixtures. This round was different and had quite a few. Argentina V Germany and France V Spain were the pick of the lot. As I was watching the Spanish masterclass, the similarities with the way Arsenal play became patently obvious. And while France were distinctly poor, I did notice a few aspects of the Spanish game that can help us improve.
France had a strong defense and defensive midfield. They also had pacy, skillful and lethal forwards. Exactly the combination that has troubled us quite a bit over the last season or two. Del Bosque’s team though, were always in control and never looked like conceding. The home side did have some moments in the last fifteen minutes but by then the Spaniards knew they had won the game and the intensity was gone as it was a friendly.
I thought it was a perfect example of patient, possession football with a solid defense and an opportunistic attack. Arsenal can certainly learn a few subtleties from El Capitan’s national side.
Firstly and most importantly, we should learn from their positioning. During the first half they never pushed too far up the pitch. To a great extent this negated the threat posed by the speed of the French attackers. It also eliminated any chance of a counter attack as the midfield was quite close to the defense at all times.
Another advantage of this tactic was that most of the possession football was concentrated in the central third, at times in the Spanish half. This meant the French defense wasn’t pushed back into its own penalty box and there was space behind their defenders that could be exploited by the pace of Villa and Silva.
Secondly and in conjunction with the first, the Spaniards showed a good deal of patience. Of course, an early goal helped, but based on the way they started the game it was clear that they were not worried about scoring early. They didn’t want to concede early and that was the priority.
A freak moment and some poor defending allowed Villa a clear run at goal and he is not the guy to miss out on such gifts. Even after the goal the Spaniards persisted with the same tactics and benefited from another opportunistic strike from the full back.
Apart from this tactical aspect there were some nuances that we could do well to adopt. At no point did the Spanish defense panic. This was possible because their players, especially the defenders, didn’t let the concentration drop even for a few moments. The full backs and wide attackers did a good job of covering the wings and France couldn’t produce many crosses into the box. Add to this a midfield that is ready to receive the ball and hold it and we get a team that can blunt almost any attack in the world. They were, no doubt, helped by a French team that lacked cohesion and spirit.
I feel we have players who are comparable to this Spanish side. The differences are subtle. At times we push too far forward against the big teams and this leaves us vulnerable at the back. On other occasions our defense tends to panic and our midfield doesn’t always provide the requisite support.
Against the smaller teams we don’t really face these problem as our record against the “bottom 17” is better than that of Chelsea and United. However, we will undoubtedly need an improvement when moneybags Citeh visit the Emirates. A win in that game might just seal the title. We will also need some improvement in the later stages of the Champions League, assuming we get past Porto. I am guessing Arsene must have seen this game. Hopefully, he will have seen something that can help us.