Thoughts On The Tactical And Technical Aspects Of The Spuds Game

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.

54 Responses to Thoughts On The Tactical And Technical Aspects Of The Spuds Game

  1. bal says:

    “If we’d shown a little more desire and decisiveness, this game would’ve been over in the first half”
    thats just the problem with arsenal always isnt it

    • desigunner says:

      I’d not say always, we did improve in the second half and in extra time. We tend to have this problem when there are wholesale changes to the side.

  2. Gooner says:

    Totts only came back temporarily cuz of the fkn ref

  3. SigfinnurP says:

    Good to see that someone values Denilson, makes ridiculously many tackles and interceptions that no one notices and wins the ball many times. He also creates calmness in midfield by making these short passes and being always available. Yes, he needs to work on his work rate, in my opinion and possibly being stronger in the challenge, but overall an extremely underrated player.

  4. santori says:

    We were alright playing 4-3-3 against the Spuds cos they rather foolishly tried to match us.

    As it was, our youngsters are better than theirs (Our Brasilian Denilson did the number on their Greek philosopher Sandro)and we passed them ragged so much so they had the cramps!:D

    I don’t think we should be quite as open against the likes of Chelsea in less than a fortnight from now.

    In particular, our wing backs afforded the opposition too much room. Eboue in particular was caught out too often and was ball watching with the header from Bentley (thank goodness it was Bentley)

    Gibbs was a bright spot and yes he shackled Lennon well. Unfortunate then that he’s out again.

    • desigunner says:

      😀 Seriously! four of their players had cramps just from chasing the ball.

      You’re right about not being so open against Chelsea. In the past we’ve repeated this mistake, let’s see if this game/season is any different.

  5. cjuillet says:

    Glad someone else noted denilson! so often on other sites (when he is playing) he is denegrated (Clichy havingn that problem now)

  6. Phil23 says:

    I’m glad to see that Gibbs is getting the recognition he has deserved for a while now. He has the quality to be the best in the world in his position within 5 years. Thats no disrespect to Clichy either but Gibbs is a great attacking threat as well as he could easily be as good at defending as Clichy if not better.

    Arsenal as a whole are looking amazing and lets keep our fingers crossed for Fab to make it back for the Chelsea game. The team seems to be firing on all cylinders and I think they are almost confident enough to take on Chelsea without being too affected by last year. It would be much easier with Fab there though.

    Jack is looking great and I have a feeling Ramsey will be back within a month even if its only in some reserve games. By the end of the year we will have a midfield of Fabregas Diaby Denilson Wilshere Ramsey Song Rosicky and Nasri. To me, that is a better set of players than Barcas midfield, Xavi Iniesta Masherano Kieta Busquets. Their starting 3 might be better but overall those 5 cannot match the depth, different combinations and talent of our midfield. Just food for thought…

    • Steve D. says:

      Too true Phil – Even when Fab eventually leaves, we will have an amazing central midfield, with Jack and Aaron

    • desigunner says:

      I think Barca press better as a team, which makes a much bigger difference. Plus with Messi and Villa in the team they can really push the opposition back. How many teams can afford to push up to the halfway line against Messi? Spain (Barca) did that against Argentina and they were spanked.

      Overall I’m quite happy with our options and the depth we have.

  7. Sid says:

    I agree that denilson is extremely underrated but with all our CMs fit will he make the starting line up?
    And lansbury looked very good last night. He had a superb work rate. And I dare make this statement but Wilshire has had it easy last couple of games and we will know ‘if he has arrived’ as some experts put it when we play the likes of chelski. You may think its being hard on him but those games will tell us if he is good enough to make the starting eleven week in week out. And a word for diaby as well. He has become far more consistent and much better at keeping the ball. And koscielny looks amazing and like hes been playing here all his life. Wenger has bought in 2 world class defenders which makes us a much stronger team. We need to solve one position and we all know which one that is! p.s.Flappihandski was awful to put it respectfully.

    • desigunner says:

      I don’t think anyone, including Wenger, expected Wilshere to be competing at the highest level on a regular basis this season. Now that he’s done well in 4 games in 10 days I think he’s proven himself.

      We still can’t expect him to dominate the likes of Chelsea. That is the final test and he is only 18. Putting that level of expectation on him would be unfair.

      • Sid says:

        Yes it is unfair but i am talking about some of the statements made in other websites by some of these so called experts.
        He has made tremendous progress this season and i feel we would have really suffered in the games without Cesc if he wasn’t there.
        He has been truely worldclass in the few matches he has played this season and hope he will get better as the season goes on.
        I may be too naive so say this but if we are to win the title this season we need him to play a huge role.
        He has changed my mind about winning a title, cause i knew we would suffer without Cesc but he has filled that void to a good extent.
        Hope you get my point.

  8. Sid says:

    And Gibbs!
    He reminds me a lot of Cashly! He makes superb runs and makes those inside runs into the box rather than just hug the touchline. He is far greater in an attacking position and defending lennon he was superb. He has impressed me greatly and i think its just a matter of time now that he will demote Clichy an Clichy is also in the odd gaffe at times in the defence. I do not know how many of you saw the belarus and france match but it was his mistake that led to their goal. I may be getting ahead of myself but gibbs will be world class soon.
    And Aaron ramsey! He was awesome last season until that day! I just cannot wait to see him back! And Phil makes a good point but barca are better. You forget they have keita,Mascherano,pedro and bojan to that list. They are overall better but all our midfielders at their best may just fall short.
    And when Fab leaves next season hope Aaron and Jack make it as soft a blow as possible. And I hope we make a HUGE profit on the man. Its inevitable might as well make the most of it(financially!)

    Cheers 😀

    • Phil23 says:

      Sid, if you look at the list again, Keita and Mash are on it. That means they only have 5 midfielders if like me you count both Bojan and Pedro as wingers/strikers. This is the area that they slightly outrank us in (although not by much really) but we have by far the better defense now! = )

    • Phil23 says:

      Btw sid, sorry if that sounded like I was just dismissing your view because it was completely valid, Iniesta Xavi and Mash/Busquets would probably be better than any combination we have but lets say Xavi + Iniesta were injured and Fab + Diaby were injured, we have by far the better depth. The thing is we need our depth cause one of our players gets decapitated every few weeks!

      • Sid says:

        Ya totally agree but the advantage for us is that we have Nasri and Ros who can play wide as well as centrally so ya depth wise in the center of midfield we are far stronger.
        That said in all fairness Barca players have way lesser injuries than what we do. We can argue that teams kick us out of the park but most of our players are also made of glass. I hoped this season would be diff but sadly same old same old.

    • Viejo says:

      Your point about Gibbs making runs inside is one that i particularly picked up on. I’ll make my own comment on it later. Totally agree tho.

    • desigunner says:

      Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, and Walcott – four future British stars, all U-21. They will be followed by the likes of Lansbury, JET, Afobe and Aneke. And I’ve probably missed out on a few names.

      Gibbs looks a lot like Cashley in terms of football quality and I’m hoping he’s made of better stuff than his predecessor.

      • Sid says:

        Yes we all hope he is.
        And clichy never seems to make those inside runs and his crossing ability is a bit poor compared to the other full backs ass well.
        He has deteriorated from 08-09 season where he was truely outstanding.
        I am not very sure about JET,Afobe and Aneke since its just too early too tell if they are good enough for a club of arsenals stature but i think with some level of confidence i can accept that Gibbsy,Aaron and Jack will become starters for our club and future starts,

  9. DKD says:

    To beat Spurs in their own back-yard just makes my day, that too not a narrow win, a 4-1- thumping. Hope VDV keeps his trap shut now.The only problen\m i saw wasthat the defence should have delat with counter-attacks better. In the coming week when we face chelsea, this should be tended to, cause they have fast players and they are gonna have the home support if they lead…otherwise a classic 10/10 from my side and especially for JW.(touch-wood !)



  10. amitgaja007 says:

    would have liked some figures, player movement maps etc etc…but in any case top post!!

    me thinks rosicky needs a special mention…he is getting to his best form ever…the passing and his sleek movement was just perfect…i guess he needs to try more long range shots on goal…remember those couple of long range stunners he scored in the 2006 WC..hope he remains fit..go gooners!!

  11. Steve Palmer says:

    A well thought out post, i can see you have done your homework, you picked out all the good and bad, of our team, but didnt mention the one thing that bugs me, bodies in the box, i know we score many goals, and your tactical view is very good, but i watch all of the big name teams on the box, and one of the things they beat us at every time is their commitment to get inside that box,Theo has been criticised in the past for his blistering pace but lack of a pass at the end of a run, theres no one there to pass to, so now he cuts inside and takes it on his self. KGB from the south flood the box on every opportunity ,Drogba Anelka are allways there UTD the same,we race to the box but seem afraid to get our feet wet, and the slow build up enables defences ample time to mark everybody, Cesc when playing is the only penatrating ball passer in these situations we have, and when he’s out its knock on head time,we dont score to many outside the box, so lets get in thre and give the Theo’s options

    • Viejo says:

      Getting players in the box is definitely an area we should improve on. I think in the future when our youngsters such as Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, Lansbury (being the closest) become starting XI we’ll see an improvement in this area as they all like to make these runs.

    • desigunner says:

      Excellent point. I had that in mind when I wrote we should have shown more desire because the images in my head were those of our players swarming around the box without really getting inside.

      That was one issue I discussed quite a bit last year. We had few games when we did put men into the box and we had some success from that. But we can definitely do better in this regard.

  12. sharpgunner says:

    I agree that our slow build up always give the opposing defence ample time to get better organized. Second, our penchant of getting to the Six yard box before trying a shot at goal is worrisome. It has caused us a few injuries in the past. We do not capitalize on counter attacks like others. If you watch Manure, each time they dispossess the opponent of the ball, they quickly get cranking towards the goal in matter of seconds and often catches the defence napping. So while I must agree that we are generally much better this season even the mounting injuries, we must actually get sharper and train on taking potshots from every vantage position.

    • desigunner says:

      I think we are improving in that regard. Last game we saw Denilson try a couple and Arshavin had his fair share. Lansbury too had a couple of pops. They just weren’t good enough to trouble the keeper but the intent was there. We do need more practice that’s for sure.

  13. manav says:

    By drilling crosses low & hard (a critical technique that you mentioned in your previous post also), there’s always a chance of the ball hitting the defender-even if it misses the targeted player-and going into the net (own goal). It might not be the most aesthetic way to score a goal but it goes a long way in adding up those decisive points. I used to see Ljungberg & Pires fire a lot of such crosses into the box so it was after years that I saw a player in Red & White (read Jackie) do it. It can be very effective in piling truck-loads of mental pressure on the goalie & defenders.

  14. M's Dad says:

    hey Desi, insightful analysis as usual.

    just a comment tho:

    “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.”

    had the impression we used to do this quite often, when Henry / A#%)@%^ Cole would drive to the byeline and cross low and hard for our midfielders / Henry to score? usually on the counter-attack.

    • desigunner says:

      Yes we did this quite well during those years but of late it’s bean a weak point. Clichy and Sagna haven’t done as well as we’d expect in this regard and even Nasri doesn’t drill them in when he plays on the flanks.

  15. SomeRandomGunner says:

    Nice Analysis Desi.
    There were two important thing about our wing play in the match.
    1. We left lots of space in our wings. Because of which we actually faced 1 v 3 in the attack and we were saved because of Bentley’s selfishness.
    2. We had lots of space in the wings which Gibbs exploited very well. Also we were switching wing play much more than we actually do. Eboue switched wing to find Gibbs in acres of space. And Eboue had got passes in excellent position twice because of switching wing play, but he failed to control on both the occasions. This certainly add to our dynamism.

    I have had few screenshots at regarding this.

    Also i think you should big up the dedicating victory to Jack Chester. As a popular blog author i think it is an opportunity to tell few fans that we are much more than a football club.

    • desigunner says:

      I think the first case was due to a positioning error by Eboue and a mistake by Djourou.

      We did switch play quite well, that’s a good observation. It’s something we’ve talked about in the past and will be worth noting in the future.

  16. Gunner Young says:

    The one thing I don’t understand is why Arsene plays Nasri in the centre when Tomas would be more suited. This was shown in the first few matches of the season when Nasri was out, and Tomas was exceptional playing in the Cesc role.
    If i had to play Nasri it would be on the wings or the Diaby role, as he has pace, and likes to carry the ball. Tomas is for me the most creative midfielder after Cesc at Arsenal and being in the center would create more opportunities.
    I agree, when everybody is fit we will have an amazing central midfield triumvirate. Apart from them being class players, the way we press the ball would mean rotation of these players is essential to keep are team fresh.
    Just a side note, I thought Eboue had a good attacking game, but he was absolutely negligent in his defensive duties. The number of times he was stuck upfield to leave Johan exposed was terrible. He lacks discipline. I just think we already have soo many attacking players, the RB and LB need to concentrate more on the defensive side. Lets have some balance.

    • desigunner says:

      I think Nasri was praised for his performance in that role during pre-season. My guess is Nasri has a better engine and a higher work-rate when compared to Rosicky, who probably has the better final pass.

      I think Eboue has dropped his focus after becoming a fringe player. He’s still a fan favourite but his concentration can be poor at times.

  17. Ajinkya says:

    Good Post!

  18. Viejo says:

    If Kieran Gibbs has not overtaken Clichy as No1 left back i’ll be very surprised. I don’t want Clichy to go, he is still a fantastic player and better than most LB in the league but Gibbs has already shown he has more ability. Defensively he is physically stronger and has better positional sense but the most notable difference is the way he joins the attack. As mentioned previously by Sid – Gibbs often makes clever runs into the box, always looking to score. This movement then confuses the hell out of the defending players and drags them out of position freeing up space down the wing or through the channels for us to exploit. He has a better cross on him and a very strong and accurate shot. If played regularly throughout the season he’d manage at least 5 goals and 10 assists easily, and that would improve over time too.

    • desigunner says:

      Gibbs is impressive no doubt but it will be a different matter to start the big games under pressure.

      I don’t wish to be critical, but if you watch the Keane goal, Gibbs is actually jogging backwards for no reason. That shows inexperience. Then when Lennon was through (Koscielny tackle), we can again see Gibbs was caught indecisive and not aware of where the ball was going. Instead of going with Lennon he actually looked back to see where the ball was.

      These are small issues but I’m sure if Clichy had done it some people would have gone ballistic.

      Gibbs needs games to develop but I’m not convinced he can be the number 1 choice right now.

  19. Irish Desi Gooner says:

    Great analysis as always desi. I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Koscielny. The more I watch him play, the more I’m convinced that we’ve purchased a top top centre half. I especially admire the his sheer aggressiveness and determination when attacking the ball. He’s also a brilliant header of the ball, times his jump to perfection to beat opponents. I can’t wait to see him up against a strong striker like Drogba. I really do hope he proves his worth (unlike verm who was up for the challenge last season but crumbled against Drogba). Most importantly, our defence and collective defending as a team seems to have moved up a notch, so hope the future is bright. Good day gunners.

    • Irish Desi Gooner says:

      Oh yes, forgot to mention that you’re right Desi, Tony’s analysis was far more comprehensive!

    • No need to talk about Koscielny, he is already the best 😀 .

    • desigunner says:

      I did mention Koscielny in the article immediately after the game but didn’t think it was necessary to bring it back into a tactical piece.

      He is probably going to end up as the signing of the season,although Chamakh will run him close.

      Drogba test is coming up soon, one that all of us are waiting for 🙂

  20. T2T says:

    Watch the games of early this Millennium; we were the best team around at counter-attacking. That has not been the case the last 3-4 years as we are almost always to slow when we break deep in our half.
    When we lost last year against Chelsea and ManU, we played the better possession football but they when the got hold of the ball, the attacked us so quickly we were unable to establish a proper defense.

    • desigunner says:

      I think part of it is because we’ve been putting 11 men in the box for some set-pieces and corners. That doesn’t leave anyone upfield for a counter! Another reason is that someone like Theo hasn’t been consistently fit.

  21. Finnish Hit says:

    Just commenting to only say that good analysis once again. Sensible blogging is in need.

    Irish Desi Gooner mentioned Koscielny. He is interesting, really, just watching his movement. I don’t remember a central defender being so pro-active and lively in the way he is. There is Some Creative Cleverness in him, in contrast to the “dominating” centrebacks that we know.

    Ah, before anyone starts listing the names, I just came up with Cannavaro (and he might be closer to the Verminator).

    • desigunner says:

      Koscielny seems to have a striker’s instincts. In the way he reads the game, the way he anticipates and then attacks the ball, and he is brave and technically good.

      I still expect some mistakes from him but hopefully the fans will accept that as a part of an exceptional package.

      • santori says:

        Koscielny was absolutely money.

        Seems like he plays the sweeper well with his timely interceptions.

        Another great buy by the gaffer.

  22. santori says:

    I’m a bit concern by the amount of space we allowed left and right of our defensive back line (particularly right)

    Gibbs did a reasonably good job shackling Lennon but there was still acres of space just in front of him. More worrying, Eboue seemed to be out of position quite a number of times and the ponderous Djourou was horribly exposed.

    I have a feeling this is symptomatic of our 4-3-3 which invariably squeezes the midfield trio tight in the middle and does not allow for the attacking wide men to cover effectively.

    We were alright playing 4-3-3 IMO against the likes of Totteringham who foolishly attempted to match us toe to toe and other teams who want to play an open game. Even so, we rode our luck a couple of times (in particular Keane on the back post on one flank and again Bentley on the other)

    However if we stack up 4-3-3 against a team intent on spreading 5 across midfield (Sunderland) or the likes of Chelsea, we might get horribly stretched.

    For those sorts of matches, I feel a more compact 4-2-3-1 is the way to go.

    • desigunner says:

      Space on the flanks has been an issue for over two seasons now. I’m not sure if a 4-2-3-1 will solve it but we can certainly benefit from some defensive discipline by two deep lying midfielders.

      I feel the best way to play a team like Chelsea or United is to keep the ball in the middle third and not in the final third. That way we can draw them out and find some space in behind. And if we lose possession we are not too far away from our own goal i.e. no huge spaces for them to run into.

      Spain do this fairly well against other good teams.

  23. GF60 says:

    “Some might say that raising their hopes and then crushing them completely was far more fun. Can’t argue with that.”

    And the sight of all those empty blue seats, priceless!

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