I’m not sure I can do as good a job of analyzing this game as Tony did over at Untold :D. Still I’d like to give it a shot. It gives me another chance to dwell on a fantastic win. It’s difficult to analyze this without the kind of stats that we get for the Premiership or Champions League games. I’ll just share my observations from the game.
The starting line-up for this game was interesting. I thought we played a 4-2-3-1 kind of a system while attacking and a 4-4-1-1 when we lost the ball. Arsene might not have made a deliberate change but I got a feeling he’d given specific instructions to certain players. For instance, he could have used the highly rated JET as a right sided attacker, a role he played in pre-season and is playing for the reserves, but he chose Lansbury for a reason that I’ll discuss later in this post.
Broadly speaking, Rosicky played like a left sided midfielder and Lansbury worked hard on the right. Nasri had a free role while Wilshere and Denilson played something like the Double Pivot.
I was impressed by the discipline showed by Denilson. He kept the game flowing with simple yet effective passes. The Brazilian was almost always available when a team-mate needed an option. He also made sure that the defence wasn’t isolated as we’d seen in the Sunderland game and did a good job of attacking the second ball.
Wilshere played more like a box-to-box midfielder but did bulk of his work in the central third with occasional, well-timed forays into attacking areas. The youngster also shouldered his defensive burden admirably. Like Denilson, he too was available to receive a pass and did a good job of pressing the Tiny Totts’ midfielders. I was particularly impressed by the way he used his body. Just like Fabregas, Wilshere isn’t a big player in terms of physical characteristics but his technique makes him far superior to most opponents, something that might have come as an unpleasant surprise to Sandro, Palacios, and Livermore. That would explain why they kicked him at every opportunity. I also liked the fact that he could create some chances from a deeper position.
Lansbury looked like a cross between Ljungberg and Ray Parlour. Arsene talked about him in his post match conference and compared his engine to Parlour’s. Wenger also mentioned the youngster’s ability to pop into the box at the right time. I think Lansbury provided us with the balance that someone like JET would not have, although It can be argued that JET might have given us the sharpness we were lacking in the first half. If Wenger thinks Lansbury can be like Parlour the youngster is sure to have a huge future.
I’m a huge fan of midfielders who know when to make a run into the box. It’s not easy to teach something like this. Pires and Ljungberg were past masters at this but of late we’ve struggled on this front. I’d go so far as to say that Nasri can learn a thing or two from Lansbury. Not to say that the youngster is better, just that he has one key skill that the Frenchman would do well to develop.
Someone like Henri can give the team a great balance. For large parts of the game he played a defensive role, even in advanced positions, as he harassed Assou-Ekoto every time the Spuds full back got the ball. But he left his mark on the game with a perfectly timed burst into the box. We see United and Chelsea score these kinds of goals quite often and if we can replicate this on a regular basis, it can add 15 goals to our season’s tally.
I think Arsene gave specific instructions to Eboue to stay back and to Lansbury to put in a solid shift on the right. This neutralized the threat of experienced players like Bentley and Assou-Ekoto and allowed us to focus on the centre and the left, where we dominated most of the possession and created all the goals.
On the flip side I thought we didn’t make the most of our possession. Nasri and Rosicky had good games but they didn’t do as much in the final third as one would expect from them, especially in the first half.
Vela struggled a bit with his back to the goal. He didn’t have the strength to hold his position in front of a defender and that meant he was forced into dropping deep far too often. And with the Tinies sitting so deep, we never got a chance to use his pace.
I also got a feeling that our midfield didn’t quite read the runs he was making or wanted to make. I’m not sure how often the Mexican plays in a central role in training but we’ll need much better understanding when we come up against opponents who have some class.
Gibbs really impressed me with his attacking forays. Amongst our full backs, the youngster seems to be the one who makes the best choices in terms of staying back and going forward, and Wilshere seems to be the midfielder who reads his runs the best. It could be down to the fact that they’ve grown up playing together.
Well-timed, overlapping runs by full backs picked out by deeper lying midfielders; low, powerfully driven crosses between the keeper and the defenders; and midfielders attacking these crosses – I’d say that adds a new dimension to our attack.
In the end, I thought we completely outclassed the opponents. I’m not sure the youngsters in their squad had ever come across a team that was so good at moving the ball. Spuds obviously can’t be that good in training and those who’ve played in the Championship and other levels would never have seen a team as synchronized as Arsenal. I think that could be a reason why they were never able to effectively press the ball higher up the pitch and ended up chasing the ball in their defensive third.
If we’d shown a little more desire and decisiveness, this game would’ve been over in the first half. Some might say that raising their hopes and then crushing them completely was far more fun. Can’t argue with that.