2009-10 Season Review: Problems & Weaknesses In Attack

We’ve scored 15 goals more than last season. Considering that and the fact that we were without our main striker for over 5 months and the first choice backup for over 4 months there would be a case that our attack was good and there aren’t many problems or weaknesses.

However, I feel our attack could have been much better and in some ways could have helped our defence a lot more. It’s not easy to see how a good attack can help the defence as there isn’t a direct connection but for teams like Arsenal the two are closely interlinked because we don’t have a squad that can sit back and defend in a conventional manner.

If our attacking play gels together then we get the following,

  • Roughly two thirds possession. If the opposition don’t have the ball they can’t score! It’s the best form of defence, really.
  • Opponents are pushed back into their own half so their attacking options limited to one or two players on the counter. As long as our defenders are alert we can snuff out such chances in most cases.
  • If the play is in the opposition half most of the time we don’t concede too many set-pieces.
  • The opposition cannot sustain any kind of an attacking impetus. The importance of this can be seen from the draw at West Ham and the loss at Wigan. They looked harmless in both games when they were limited to infrequent attacks but we panicked and conceded soft goals once they were able to sustain the pressure.

I can’t really limit this discussion to the front three if I talk about our attack in general. The midfield plays a significant role in this and I tried to cover that in the last post. What I’ll try is to identify areas of improvement in the front three that can lead to an incisive attack and a stronger defence.

The first observation is that we don’t always get enough men into the box. The best example of this is the lack of a man at the back post when a cross comes in. I’ve never understood how we can claim to play a 4-3-3 formation and not have a wide player attacking the far post every time.

I know our crosses aren’t always perfect but on most occasions the man on the ball has a solitary target and he is heavily marked. The intriguing bit is that attacking the back post doesn’t need any special talent. Almost all other top teams have a wide player or full back attacking the back post or at the very least recovering the ball on the other flank. Arsenal on the other hand lose possession most of the times a cross goes deep!

I’m sure our full backs and players like Walcott will automatically look much better if we get more men into the box. It puts pressure on the defenders and the chances of an error increase. We also get a better chance of attacking a loose ball or a rebound. United are masters at this and it’s not a surprise that “own goals” are their joint second best scorer. Once they get more players rushing in the defenders are under a lot of pressure and it’s much harder to clear the ball.

It also reduces the chances of a counter attack because the opposition is pushed farther back into their own penalty area instead of playing on the edge as often happens against us when we keep shuffling the ball from one flank to another.

Whenever Cesc is on the pitch he makes enough runs into the box but none of our other midfielders or wide players has done this on a consistent basis. Arshavin obviously gets in quite often but most of it has been centrally rather than on the back post.

In fact, Arshavin has been the biggest disappointment of the season as far as our attack goes. He has 10 goals and 2 assists at 188 mins per goal/assist. That is less than one in two games. In contrast Eduardo, who has been criticized by many, has 4 goals and 6 assists at 112 mins per goal/assist.

I know Arshavin didn’t play in his best position but for someone who has pretentions of being a world class player this should not be a big deal. We don’t see the likes of Rooney, Messi or Ronaldo complain about their position on the pitch. It’s not that the Russian made any great contribution to defence which would explain his lack of attacking involvement.

We’ve all seen him miss some absolute sitters but the bigger problem is his lack of effort. I’d love to know the work rate statistics for the Russian and I’m willing to bet he’s amongst the three worst outfield players at the club, probably the worst. For a supposedly proven player and a big money signing his return is unacceptable and we will need much more from him next season.

Another issue with the attack is that we don’t move the ball fast enough. In the early weeks this was not a problem and you could see that most of the team was on the same wavelength. Then as injuries started taking their toll our tempo went down and passing became more predictable. A lot of it is connected with the runs of the front three and I think our attackers didn’t move around enough, especially when Fabregas was missing. This limits the passing options for the midfielders and reduces the pressure on the opposing defenders. The forwards have to keep moving even if their runs are not noticed or they don’t get the ball. Just the movement can make a big difference.

Apart from Van Persie, Walcott is our best attacker in terms of making runs. I think his running is very well timed and he varies his movement quite well. Straight from the top of my head I remember three occasions when he made a brilliant run and was completely free in front of goal but the man on the ball didn’t square it to him.

Finally, I think our attackers need to press the defenders better. We were quite good at this in the early part of the season but as the weeks went by the opposition found it easier to come out against us. If we press the ball high up we force the defence into a quick pass and chances of recovering the ball are much higher. Not only does it help us launch a quick attack, it also helps ease the pressure on our own defence.

As I’ve said in the previous articles, these aren’t massive problems in themselves. That is the reason it’s easy to overlook these issues or to underestimate their importance. I’m convinced working on these issues can add 5-6 points to our season and could help us save 5-6 points defensively as well. Arshavin alone is worth an extra 10 points if we can get the best out of him! Once again I’m hoping Arsene can sort some of these issues in pre-season and then sustain the performance all through the season.


24 Responses to 2009-10 Season Review: Problems & Weaknesses In Attack

  1. John Muhindo says:

    Nothing is better than taking trophies,however much you score with empty hands.We need new players and the analysis of improvement compared to the previous season does not solve arsenal`s problem.

    • desigunner says:

      who says new players will solve the problem? they haven’t solved the problem for liverpool, citeh, madrid and so many more!

      only a proper analysis of actual problems and the right solution, which could include new players, can solve the problems. All I’m doing is making a honest effort towards such an analysis.

  2. Gunner says:

    whats the use to analyse so much?
    arsenal doesnt have desire or a spirit to win…
    they will never win a title EVER…
    and this is from a gunner…

    • desigunner says:

      then why are you a gunner? and if you know they will never win and still want to be a gunner then why complain!?

  3. dan says:

    Well Desi, good overall viewpoints, but I think it would be easier to summarize by stating the obvious at this point – we have too many weaknesses all over this team. Arshavin thought he would be coming to a title contender, instead he arrived at a kiddie club and is losing interest. Rvp and cesc don’t understand the lack of transfers. Factions in the squad don’t get along and don’t even speak to each other. It’s all become a big mess and I believe the rot has set in and nothing short of an overhaul can stop it.

    Wenger has carefully constructed a catastrophe by bringing in the wrong players, not that they’re bad, just the overall group is badly structured. Too many similar players, lack of winning mentality, disruptive influences everywhere, this is a mess, is wenger doing his job? Continuing to believe this team can win anything without massive changes will only drive us further down the road to nowhere.

    • desigunner says:

      the weaknesses we have are minor and are there in almost all teams. United have been garbage when rooney has been missing, Chelsea have had an on and off season. All teams have problems, we just had problems and really bad luck. We can’t really change our luck so we need to focus on the problems.

      Arshavin has no business judging others because he has been very poor. The whole idea that he thought he was coming to a title contender and arrived at a kiddie club and is losing interest is ridiculous. If he arrived at a kiddie club it’s his job as a senior player to raise the standard. The simplest start would be to put in a honest shift all season long, something he hasn’t done.

      I find it rather sad and somewhat funny when people try to attack the kids and then defend the so called big signings. There can be no excuse for a top professional on a big salary that justifies losing interest. And I’m sure that’s not the case in reality but just something made up by people who want to defend Arshavin because he shows big signings can be a problem and that would effectively kill the only argument those in favor of spending big have.

      • dan says:

        Desi, you have misunderstood. Arshavin is not being defended and the kids are not being attacked, what I did say does however stand on its own. Spending big? Nah, didn’t mention that either.

        A careful reader will discern that my comments are directed at the architecture of the team, which, built over several seasons now, is clearly showing its flaws. Now these flaws may or may not be a problem if your ambition is limited to top four and nothing more.

        I do believe that for the club to continue to prosper we need to up the standard. Trophies need not be won continuously, but it’s important to be challenging for them credibly. That’s not happening, and it won’t happen without significant changes, this of course can include selling players and thereby offsetting expenditures.

        Trophies are the very bedrock of the club and we should never lose sight of that. We were only really after two trophies this year, not four/five, and we were dispatched rather handily for a club which openly states it’s desire and intention to win things.

      • desigunner says:

        Dan,

        I felt a very strong negative vibe in your comment. Maybe I got it wrong.

        The way I see it we are better than 17 clubs in the premier league, probably 19 in Serie A and 18-19 in La Liga. And with some luck we can compete against the best in these leagues.

        we’ve achieved all this with a fraction of their spending, so the man who has taken us to this level probably knows what he is doing. That doesn’t mean he is perfect but how can anyone justify saying that we’re in a rot?

        I’m not sure how we can question the architecture of a team that has been missing 5-6 key players on a consistent basis and still competing for the title for 8 months? How do you justify the spending of City, Spuds, Liverpool and co when they couldn’t even come close to us and how do we find a solution to a supposed rot if the others who have spent so much haven’t found one?

        Trophies are important but they are not the be all and end all in sport. If we apply similar criteria of success in our lives then probably the companies that don’t top the sales and profits should be firing their employees and hiring new ones every year?

        No real fan, no player and neither the manager want to settle for top 4 but it is certainly better than winning the FA cup or League cup and playing in the Europa League or getting into administration!

  4. Jenkinson says:

    We came third behind two clubs with massively greater resources.
    We scored 3 points more than last season.
    We qualified for the Champions league more comfortably and earlier than last season.
    During December/January we had all 5 strikers injured.
    During this period we played both ManU and the Chavs.
    The moaning is quite incredible – when did Bolton, Blackburn, Birmingham, Stoke, West Ham, Aston Villa, ManCity,Everton last win a trophy? Why do we expect Arsenal to win trophies? Do trophies matter?

  5. Ena says:

    Jenkinson,u are sick for comparin blakburn and d others to arsenal

    • The Fan says:

      Blackburn are one of only 4 clubs to win the premier league.
      And ALL those clubs have a higher net spending on transfers than us so they should be doing better.

  6. UMZ says:

    ARSENAL WILL SIGN UP TO 5 PLAYERS THIS SEASON I THINK 2 HAVE BEEN DONE AND WE WILL LET GO OF 3 PLAYERS,

    ARSENAL WILL BE MAKING A LOSS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 4 YEARS

    ARSENAL WILL WIN THE PREMIER LEAGUE AND MAKE IT TO THE SEMI’S OF CHAMPION LEAGUE AND WIN THE FA CUP

    AFTER THAT FABREGAS AS WELL AS WENGER WILL LEAVE !!!
    FOR MORE INFO CONTACT ME AT umz1786@hotmail.co.uk

    • The Fan says:

      Why you going around saying that arsenal will get 5? your filling the hopes of idiots who next season will say wenger promised 5 players cos of your baseless comments.

      In transfer spendings they will make a loss (unless cesc goes) but not overall .

      Why you saying we will win them? Is it our divine right to win it? You gotta have the best squad to win it. Do we? I believe we have the best team, but best squad? Also champions league is luck to a greater extent. Had we drawn bayern then lyon, i reckon we’d be playing mourinho in the final. FA we can go for if they don’t stick a match vs stoke just before we play villa,united,chelsea and liverpool while being top of the table.

      Wenger will not leave after next season if we win a a trophy. He may leave if he is unhealthy, unhappy with a takeover etc but at the moment he’d like to stay til 2013 judging by the Ivan comments.

  7. Phil23 says:

    @Desi. I would like to make a statement right here about some of the things I have discussed with you. I strongly believe that we should buy a second, left footed defensive midfielder as you know. This doesn’t mean I think Diaby OR Denilson should go. In fact I think that one of them should play in every game against the smaller teams. When I talk about having 2 defensive midfielders, that is only for big games where we have a smaller gap in technical ability etc. I think a lot of the problem with our lack of depth and part of the negative of our philosophy, (which I definitely don’t want to change btw!) is that when the players aren’t *feeling it* (by which I mean they just don’t have the spark that day to show off their flare) we find it difficult to win games. This is where our lack of threat from set pieces fails us so often. If we did happen to sign more defensive players, I think that it will help our set pieces a lot. Chamakh will help with this as well. If we got more goals from set pieces it would relieve the pressure on the creative players so that they can play more naturally. This is just an assumption but I think this could be to do with the fact we have been taking a long time to score this season. We haven’t really had a full squad at all so the full creativity isn’t there from the start, add to this one or two players having an off day (which there is no team in the world where every player plays well every game) and we lose confidence. Confidence is the key to us lifting trophies. (well… any team for that matter)

    • desigunner says:

      You make some really good observations here.

      I’ve often wondered about this “feeling it” issue. There are games when we can see it’s not gelling together and you’re right our set pieces infuriate me on such days. However, instead of people who can attack set pieces I think we need much better delivery. Comparing set pieces when RvP plays and when he doesn’t play clearly shows this.

      In fact our set pieces are weak and that makes it easy for the opposition because they can concede a corner or a throw without really feeling threatened. It helps them in their overall defending.

  8. Phil23 says:

    Yeah so I totally went off point as usual… What I was go to talk about is that I think Diaby will have another big year next year. Except even bigger. Saying this, I still wouldn’t trust him in the big games next year and not Denilson either. Maybe in 2 or 3 years he will have had enough experience to be defensively aware but he is a long way off being the finished product. In saying that, isn’t that exciting? In 3 years Diaby is going to be a bloody power house of a player for us!!! The days of listening to fans constantly moaning about him will disappear just like what happened with Song! Arsenal has a very bright future. I just hope that bright future starts next season not two or three after that!

    • desigunner says:

      Yeah the longer we delay achieving our potential the more we risk losing it mentally. Once a team gets too used to losing then every bad moment can be really damaging.

      Arsene has to find the answers this season. I don’t mean in terms of trophies alone but we should be able to compete and win the big matches. The end result in May depends on a number of factors but once we start winning the big games the other issues will get progressively easier.

      I’ve not been able to understand Diaby. He can move from the sublime to the ridiculous in the same game and toggles between the two states quite often in a given season. Don’t know if its a mental issue or something else but he needs a lot more consistency, lets hope he can achieve it sooner rather than later.

  9. Jenkinson says:

    Ena,
    You’re a bit thick really aren’t you?

  10. The Fan says:

    Arsenal don’t have a spirit to win? If anything this season has proved to us that they do. Stoke(a), bolton(a or h), liverpool(a,h), barcelona (1st leg), the late goal matches, standard liege , the list goes on.
    Your memory probably only dates as far back as wigan and with most of our best players out, and the lack of rotation for a long time, those players literally were drained.
    It’s not like a fairy tale where you just gotta believe to win mate. There’s more to it than that. The quality and depth of the squad as well as injuries etc affect it and quite frankly we sustained too many injuries through out the season to compete despite being in the title race til april.

  11. Dammy says:

    The Fan,you are a darl!!!….u definitely aint plastic and i must confess,your comments are on point…

  12. dan says:

    Do trophies matter? Um, are you familiar with Arsenal and it’s players? Rvp, cesc, arshavin, even Gallas all want trophies, and if they can’t get them with us, at the very least they’ll not be pleased, and at worst seek them elsewhere. Wenger stated that a trophy was a priority if not a clear target this past season. In addition, top players would be more hesitant to join a team that’s not offering a solid prospect for trophies. So yes, trophies are very important, if you have any more questions about the club let me know.

    • desigunner says:

      I think the real question is, are trophies the only thing that matter?

      Arsenal players, manager, and fans all want to win but it’s not a win at all costs and ends justify means philosophy. We’re competing in a unbalanced world and considering the factors we’ve not done bad.

      We can certainly do better and we must respect the efforts of the past and focus on the future.

      • canadiangooner says:

        Trophies do matter, its a given for fans,
        but more so for players with ambition,,,,
        and these players usually end up being the
        most skilled players.
        With all the cesc rumors floating around,
        if he does leave then i think that would
        be a prime example, players do get dis-illusioned
        Of course you have others who leave purely
        for monetary reasons and i personally hate
        those ones! a certain a.cole being one who
        left us!!!!
        Similarly in this team i would not be surprised
        if AA left for monetary reasons, its an unbalanced
        world and you cannot do anything to stop someone
        from leaving if they are offered 10 times more
        money, but if they leave because they think you
        cannot win anymore then you do have a problem which
        needs to be addressed.

        I think AW is a great coach and deserves all the
        credit in the world but he has got a lot of things
        wrong in the past few years, i still think he is the
        only coach for arsenal but i hope he changes his
        methods and does what is required this summer, cause
        patience is a virtue as they say and i think time is
        running out for arsene

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