Arsenal Need To Develop The Art Of Defensive Possession

The Premier League is said to be the best league in the world. I’m not convinced about that but I’d say the EPL is certainly the fastest league in the world. There is more end to end action in England than in any other country.

After watching games from various leagues over the last few years I’ve come to believe that in the Premiership the teams play as if they’ve to follow a basketball law – get a shot on goal within 30 seconds of getting possession. I know that is not the case literally. The point is that most teams in England try to get the ball into the opposition box as soon as possible. Many use Route 1 tactics while others try to play it out wide and cross it in at every opportunity.

With the balls fizzing around the penalty box and a lot of goalmouth action, the games do look exciting to watch for the casual fan. It isn’t the best way of playing the game and good teams often make sides using such tactics look woefully inept, but since it’s the majority approach it works and is appreciated.

Arsenal are an exception to this in some ways. The Gunners pass the ball around more often and better than many other teams. Most of their attacks are also created by good movement and pin-point passing. In the context of the English game, Arsenal are unique. But if we look at teams like Barcelona (Spain) or Holland, Arsenal are still a very direct team.

I’m not against the direct approach per se. When it works, and it’s successful more often than not, we can get performances as exhilarating as the first half against Newcastle. But there are times when it doesn’t work. There can be many reasons for that like the opposition playing a well organized pressing game, Arsenal missing key players, some players being out of form, team going down to ten men, and so on.

I have noticed that when Arsenal struggle to get control of the ball and don’t create enough in attack, they often struggle at the back too. Oddly enough, Arsenal look more vulnerable at the back when defending in numbers than when they play a high line and challenge the opposition to break them down (This is different when playing two or three big teams but in general this is true).

The most recent example we saw was in the dreadful second half against Newcastle. Having finally seen the second half again I’m convinced the ref had a bigger say in the result than I’d initially thought. But some blame does fall on the way Arsenal defended and it wasn’t something new. We’ve seen this far too often for it to be a one-off result affected only by the ref.

I agree with Wenger that the players were too concerned about defending the lead. The problem was that they still played a very direct style. So every time they got back possession, they tried to attack. Two or three players went forward, another couple stayed in the middle while others stayed deeper. This meant the team was not compact and with 10 men on the pitch it allowed Newcastle to find a great deal of space on the pitch.

The two or three who went forward couldn’t really create much as they were outnumbered. So the hosts won possession back really quickly and at times they were able to bring the ball to the Arsenal penalty box within seconds of it being out.

This made the players more nervous and the cycle repeated. It also lifted the crowd and their players who pressed higher up and got into the box in numbers. Once this happens the ref gets a lot more chances of influencing the game as the ball and opponents get into the danger area regularly.

Now to be perfectly honest I can’t see Arsenal parking a bus and making it look solid. We can park a lot of expensive, high performance sports cars and hope that it will do the work of one big two-tiered bus but it won’t always work.

Wenger has to find another way of defending and I think he should look at Spain, Holland, and Barcelona. All these teams play patient football and they also show excellent composure and defensive possession.

All through the World Cup the Dutch team played a defensive style but it wasn’t akin to the ‘Park the bus + hoof and hope’ style so common in the Premiership. The Oranje moved the ball between their defenders, keeper, and defensive midfielders. They waited for the opposition to come out and that created space for the likes of Robben and Sneijder to exploit.

Even Barcelona dropped back into their own half after scoring two goals against Arsenal at Camp Nou last season. They defended well and negated the threat of Walcott. At the same time they tried to find ways of exploiting the space behind the Arsenal defence and Messi was successful on two occasions to make it an emphatic score line.

When Arsenal are under pressure this is what they have to learn. The defenders need to stay deep, two central midfielders  and a wide player should stay close to them and the striker should look to link up with a winger. Walcott does not have the close control or dribbling skills of Robben or Messi but he has explosive pace. If Arsenal can keep six/seven players deep and play the ball between them, they will undoubtedly find ways of using the space behind the opponents.

This would be a major tactical change from the current style that Wenger uses. Right now Wenger does not use a functional approach. Le Boss gives his players the right to decide how to play and the flexibility created by that is one of Arsenal’s biggest strengths but at times it also turns into one of their biggest weaknesses.

Arsenal are trying to adapt. I have seen this in patches. In the away games this season, the Gunners have been a lot more cautious than the last couple of seasons. They have played much deeper and have worked on their collective defending. I have also noticed that Fabregas looks to drop back a lot more and Walcott and Nasri have been making good runs from wide positions. Occasionally, I have also seen Arsenal play the patient possession game to control the lead but this doesn’t last more than two, three minutes at a time. Interestingly, Denilson is usually on the pitch when Arsenal do this.

Such an approach would have been very useful in the upcoming games with Diaby suspended, Djourou injured, and no updates on Song. But I can’t see it being implemented in the coming weeks.

I realize these are complex changes because the system is affected by the movement of each and every player on the pitch. If you’re playing a patient game deep in your own half and one player switches off or is caught out of position it could give the opponents a clear opening. So such a change cannot be implemented overnight and a lot of work has to be done in training.

But Wenger will have to create such a system sooner rather than later. He cannot just hope that having enough bodies in the box will work out so often, especially as these bodies are like cars and not buses or trucks.


48 Responses to Arsenal Need To Develop The Art Of Defensive Possession

  1. Anil says:

    Listen dude, if a player risks having his leg snapped up in a game, why would he show commitment.

    Our players protected their safety as the ref was taking revenge for whar Cesc said one week before (which by the way was said after we suffered from yet another dubious decision).

    The truth is that it is difficult for Englishman to accept that a French guy takes a bunch of foreigners, starts some crazy project and makes it work in their own backyard. Its too difficult to swallow…hah. If you want more details listen to Canal +, Equipe du dimanche. The French are silently bemused by what happened and are looking at the English with amused looks. Even if Arsenal does not win anything, they have proved more that enough to show they are the best.

    • critic says:

      noises, noises, noises…….

    • critic says:

      listen guys, it’s been happening for a while now. Arsenal don’t get rub of green from refs, especially in case of physical play. Arsenal now need to cope with that either with desi’s philosophy or developing one of their own.

      The saha’s goal against us was not ‘definitely offside’. There’s a grey matter concerning active and passive player in case of an offside. Refs just saw the darker version. Mostly it wud not have been given(especially in case of mustcheat united) but it’s a grey area none the less.

  2. Arsenalisto says:

    Agree fully with Anil. It can’t be a coincidence anymore that our team is always targeted by English refs and media with the help of some of our fickle plastic fans.

    • Phil23 says:

      We Arsenal fans have known of this huge bias for several years now. We must accept it and use it. Arsenal are already the best team in the Premiership. the refs have managed to even it out so far but it can’t last forever as we are STILL on an upward curve. Not to mention we are possibly still accelerating! I predict that within a year the refs will make no difference, we will be so far superior that we will win titles anyway. It is on this day that us as true Arsenal fans will sit back and just laugh. Laugh at the media. Laugh our own ‘fans’. Laugh at the Chelsea and City Owners. Laugh at Fergies red puffed out face as he screams down the phone at Howard Web. Lasty, we will thank Arsene for seeing out his vision. Although I maintain that with one more modest signing of the Ajax captain to cover defense and defensive midfield, we would already be cruising for the title and having our laughs already.

  3. Phil23 says:

    As well as the tactics you think should be implemented in defense (which i agree with). The only way we can become more solid is to sit both the midfielders deeper as well as make sure the left defensive mid is even deeper than the right. This means that the more attacking side (the left), is balanced out with a truly defensive player. This player must often drop into the defense as cover for the attacking Vermaelen or as cover for Clichy. They must be very comfortable with this. The right sided defensive midfielder will take up the box to box role. This player must also be competent in defense. They must be able to provide full cover for Sagna and Djourou. If Arsenal could do this they would instantly be on par with Barcelona and be far superior of any other English team. Ill say no more as i’m sure Desi is sick of me mentioning the name of the player that could solve our problems. In this situation Song would also be given free license to roam forward and impose his presence up the pitch while knowing there is strong cover behind him. This goes for Clichy, Vermaelen and Sagna too. While also meaning Arshavin is able to play on the left without creating defensive problems. The right side will lose little to nothing on the defensive side as Song has an amazing engine and is already very aware of being in the right place at the right time.

  4. msl says:

    * “I have noticed that when Arsenal struggle to get control of the ball and don’t create enough in attack, they often struggle at the back too.” You mean working as a team without the ball? A few of the English pundits have been banging on about this for a while.

    * “When Arsenal are under pressure this is what they have to learn. The defenders need to stay deep, two central midfielders and a wide player should stay close to them and the striker should look to link up with a winger.” Is this stay compact?

    *I want to know what current approach the boss has about defending as in there is no tactical approach decipherable from our defending. Honest question. Like you say if its the players who decide what to do then its going to be haphazard like the way do.

    *This is one area where I don’t understand what happens to us. Attack is a lot about free flow and creativity and Wenger offers our players 100% breathing space but defending is a totally different ball game. It needs discipline and clear cut roles. Some games we don’t have our best markers (who are they anyway?) marking the most dangerous opponents. I cannot fathom how a bunch of 11 individuals are to deal with an attack without clear cut roles.

    *Defensive possession is all good but along with that we need a system in place. Having 11 bodies in the box and expecting our players to react first every time there is a loose ball is well confounding.

    • desigunner says:

      No I meant that when the passing game isn’t working for whatever reason, the defence seems a lot more vulnerable.

      Not exactly compact, that would be more like parking the bus. But what I suggested was to facilitate passing at the back so that hoofs are eliminated to the extent possible and the opponents are made to chase the ball just inside the Arsenal half. Of course, they have to be compact when they lose the ball but I was talking about when they have the ball. You cannot stay too close when you have the ball otherwise eventually you’ll lose it.

      There is a decent enough tactical approach at present. It’s certainly not non-existent. That is the reason Arsenal are among the teams who have fewest shots against and even in terms of goals conceded we are not that bad. But this approach doesn’t work in some games and when that happens Arsenal end up conceding 3 or 4 goals which is something you would rarely see from the other big teams.

      These issues are not very simple. People have their roles fairly well defined and they also have to adapt to the situations. One can tell the likes of Fabregas and Wilshere to play defensively but they’ll make some instinctive mistakes. Couple that with a generous ref and it becomes much more difficult.

      • MSL says:

        I agree that we are not the worst defensively. But if you put the shots-on-goal vs possession, I wonder if it would show a different number. In essence, our opponents have much lesser possession and hence, have a lower chance. This will also expose how we play without the ball.

        Set-pieces are still a worry. Another seemingly (I am not too sure) worrisome issue is us fouling outside the box (about 15-20 yards) and conceding the very set-pieces for opponents to score.

  5. Irish gunner says:

    Good points msl we seem to struggle at set pieces especially when bentner an chamak not in the team,if rice is the main defencive coach maybe its a good ting hes going at end of season an get world class defensive coach.

    • MSL says:

      I think Pat Rice leaving is not official yet. So, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. In all, he has 14 years here at Arsenal and we have won a few things with him. Its hard to explain why he is suddenly so bad or whether the fact the Keown was very influential during the Invincibles era and Adams before that as the grapevine goes.

      We need a thorough look at our set pieces defending. Just having number of bodies in the box won’t do it.

    • richie says:

      Pat Rice is not the defensive coach and there is no word about him leaving officially and no one at the club is willing to confirm thing unofficially.

  6. Abhishek says:

    Looking back at the Newcastle game, I think the timing of the substitutions and the players who were brought in were wrong in my opinion. If we were protecting such a comfortable lead then it would have been better to bring in Eboue and Gibbs early on and put them in the midfield. Rosicky is a good attacking player but doesn’t offer the calmness in defensive duties as we would like him to. Going back to the defense issue, as we saw throughout January that Arsenal’s defense has the potential to be really good. I think Arsenal’s way of defending couldn’t be criticized. Barcelona’s players have amazing ability with the ball..much better than arsenal players..so defending while playing possession football might be a long shot for arsenal..but they should be able to bring in the ability to park the bus if they have to as it might be easier to learn and adapt than otherwise.

    • nikkogunners says:

      I keep wondering, now that we have no players in the DM role as everyone is in the emergency room and the last one who was there is a hot head who has to cool down in 3 games.

      I think it’s time Clichy is given the temporary role in the DM role. I suspect he may be a revelation there. Gibbs can deputize him in the defense. I think we can have Eboue and Koncienly in the centre back and Schillachi can play in the reserves for the rest of the season.

      I had a feeling that at 4-0 we should have reserved our only DM remaining and Diaby should have been benched at halftime. Another Key player among either Fab, Walcott or RvP should have been benched at halftime. those two changes then we would be having one change remaining in case of injury. We would be in heaven right now with 3 points and maybe more goals

  7. Kubla Khan says:

    You have made a few interesting points. Possessing the ball is the best way of defending! As you say, Arsenal do play the possession game but they give it away cheaply at times. The most they will keep it is 2 or 3 minutes, then lose it.

    The Barca model is based on players changing positions with each other. In essence, the striker could suddenly find himself as a right back and so on. Although this is not always how Barca play nowadays, at least from some old videos, this is how they played under Cryuff. Arsenal must try to keep the ball without trying to move it towards a goal scoring position.

    As regards some points made by other readers, the question is : almost all teams have foreign players, yet why is the media, printed and spoken, against Arsenal? Why is there a hatred of Arsenal? ( this from personal experience)

    Is it because of the breed of Arsenal players ( skilful, gifted , technically superior and not thug like ) or is it because of Wenger ( charming, suave , sophisticated, the anti-thesis of Ferguson, Allardyce and other people of that ilk)
    What other reason can there be, apart from the fact that they are jealous of our football and that Wenger doesn’t splash money?

    • amband says:

      Too many foreigners at Arsenal. The board are hopeless for a sporting club

      We need tough English defenders. Fireigners by nature are too “flighty” and more prone to diving and ill tempered

      We could have had Bent, Carrol, Barry, instead we get these African and European mincers. We rarely get good foreign players like Cesc or Pires or Henry anymore

  8. JJ Pittman says:

    Really incisive writing! Excellent intelligent responses as well. msi point about the difference in philosophy required for defending is key. We do need practice as well as personnel to do this. However, as the old saying goes,” the best defense is a good offense” (it goes the other way round sometimes). We have the best offense and if we keep pouring it on, we may be okay. The sending off of Diaby really hurt. We couldn’t keep the offensive rolling.
    Let’s hope Wolves are resting on their laurels just a little bit and we’ll not blow another lead by trying to park the sports cars(love that analogy)

  9. Gooner karki says:

    Cant agree more with u Anil
    So much for bias in English Football,, especially against Arsenal,, Now other people might say that we’re saying this because we’re Arsenal fans and having biased view bt the case is different,, We’re really robbed in every other game,, match after match,, week after week
    Arsenal is hated in general football society in England and FA is not far from it
    Doesnt it seem like they are throwing everything to stop us from winning the league ??
    Cesc was mch criticised by the media after Everton match for questioning referee ,, and everyone knows if Terry or Rooney were the one to say the same thing,, they wud only be doing tht job as a Captain and hailed,, Now tell me ,, if Cesc was playing for Manchester United and wud be saying same thing as a captain of Manchester United,, nothing wud’ve happened! At all!
    The catch is Anti-Arsenal mentality is not only present but deeply rooted in English Football bcz of 1) jealousy tht we are managing a club so big with such less finances and still doing very good with young players and 2) most of these young players are not from England or UK 3) A French manager who is strict in his principles and never a diplomat

    One part of me still believes that Phil Dowd recieved huge amounts of money to influence our Saturday’s game,, Impossible was happening,, I cudnt believe my eyes bt yes,, Real reason is to stick our foreign captain who was speaking against referees and questioning their integrity,, I dont think our beloved will be allowed to win the Premier League this season`

  10. golds73 says:

    Hi desi.

    I’m a regular reader of your fantastic blog and I find your analysis quite informative. I have also started writing my own blog for sometime. I’ll just extract some parts of my own write up which I feel correspond to your post.

    “In addition to this, the players need to be told to hold the game tight when defending a lead. Look at World Champions Spain. They gave so few opportunities to the opponents once they took the lead. Our players are similarly technically proficient and a little bit of tiki-taka when we are leading will go a long way if we want to win trophies. Yesterday, I was a bit disappointed we didn’t keep control of the ball better in the second half.

    For example, as pointed out to me by a friend of mine, when Sagna got the ball, often he just tried to maraud up the right side without much support and all on his own, taking on two Newcastle defenders. This resulted in our team losing possession and enabling Newcastle to launch their attacks. But the problem does not lie solely on Sagna(he’s a fantastic defender by the way and I rate him very highly in my book). It is rather a collective problem and we should really sort it out because we may face similar situations in the big games to come.

    Similarly, the goalkeeper can also be instructed to slow the game down, not by time wasting(though this can be applied if we are desperate), but by giving simple passes to the defenders instead of launching the ball up field everytime. For example, in yesterday’s match, Wojciech kicked out the ball straightaway whenever we got a goal kick in the second half. Since we: (i) were reduced in numbers, (ii) didn’t have any tall players(Diaby and Djourou off, Bendtner on the bench) and thereby we couldn’t hold up the ball, this resulted in the ball coming back time and again and the defence was really stretched. Maybe it was the inexperience from Szczesny, but he will do well to learn from this match.”

    Here is the link to the full post:
    http://goldsblogg.blogspot.com/2011/02/talking-point-arsenal-half-time-team.html

  11. Irish gunner says:

    Stay positive gooner if tv5 an jd20 can get back in the in nxt month we can win premiership,let the barca match take care of itself, we shud have no fear no one gives us a chance after last season an we have nothing to lose

  12. Claver says:

    dESI,

    You are trying to flog a dead horse on this one. Arsenal’s defence has been immaculate this year up until halftime.

    The Ref’s decisions were ‘normal’ according to the usual standards of bias…up until half-time.

    Think about it…if NU can score 4 goals against Arsenal like that under normal circumstances then they should be in the Champions League.

    In fact, they should beat Barcelona!!! Something MU have failed to do!

    Desi,pliz don’t lose your objectivity.

    If NU are indeed such a great team, with great powers of recovery…if Pardew is indeed such a great motivational coach…why of all the English managers was he out of a job? For so long? In the top flight?

    I mean, if Pardew got his tactics right – against the Best Manager Of The Decade – with a pathetic team like NU then he must surely be the Best Mngr Ever.

    If you are willing to believe that…

    Arsenal have a defensive record rivalling MU, goal difference of 4, so really Desi…what is going on?

    Blame Arsenal, blame the foreigners, the French…but Desi if you believe that my friend I am concerned for you.

    Everything about this NU ‘comeback’ is too good to be true.

    If you believe it…u r suffering a serious case of ‘conditioning’.

    But I think that some one made some serious money.

    • desigunner says:

      This article is not about the Newcastle game alone, nor is it solely about Arsenal’s defence which hasn’t been immaculate (home games against WBA and Tiny Totts are good examples). This article is about the Arsenal’s style of play and what can be changed to bring more composure to defending when the going gets tough (Even if it’s due to a ref). I’m sorry to say you’ve completely missed the point. I agree about the need for objectivity but blaming everything on the ref is not the same as being objective.

  13. Claver says:

    Are we willing to believe what the Media says? That Arsene doesn’t sign good defenders? That Arsenal cannot defend?

    It is easy isn’t it?

    But think carefully, just how has Wenger done it these past few years. Top 4 consistently. Is it with a shoddy defence?

    If we agree that Arsenal have a shoddy defence, then just how have Arsenal beaten…Real Madrid away, AC Milan away to mention a few. The first English team to do so, if I’m correct.

    Is it with a shoddy defence?

    Why is it so much easier to believe the same intellectually challenged reporters who told us the World Cup was there to be had for England?

    Is it because the Reporters have nice pictures?

    Come now…children.

    ‘When I was a child, I spake as a child…’
    GOD, via Paul of Tarsus.

    ‘When I was a child, I thought as a child…’

  14. 037 says:

    Spot on, Desi!
    I thought it was very odd for Arsenal with 10 men down to start attacking immediately every time they got the ball. More often than not, what happened was the ball was passed to the right, then Eboue/RVP/Fabregas dribbled their way into an easy tackle.
    Then Newcastle has the chance to attack again against 6-7 men.
    It was frustrating to see.
    Seeing the disadvantage in numbers, Fabregas should’ve commanded the play. The ball should’ve been passed more in the defensive area for longer periods of time. After all, we were leading! Going for low-probability-chance-of-success counter attacks does not seem to be a good idea when we were in that condition.

    • desigunner says:

      One point that i missed mentioning in the article is that sometimes Arsenal players seem nervous when the ball is in or around the penalty area. That could be one of the reasons they hoof it or start running forward with the ball, just to get it away from the danger zone. The unfortunate bit is that when this isn’t done right the ball comes back within no time.

  15. Greencard usa says:

    I’m not much of a tactician, nor a proficient reader of the game; but, I am an Arsenal fan and that’s why I am impressed and attracted to Desi’s blogs. One thing I have noticed however is oppositional teams manage to put pressure on Arsenal defence when they descend on a player with possession giving him very little time on the ball and closing him down. Most times there isn’t another Arsenal player close enough to provide support or fight to balance the forces. I have no idea on how to address this.

    • desigunner says:

      Well putting pressure on the man on the ball, or pressing, is a very effective tactic and when done consistently and collectively it can yield incredible results. Barcelona are the best example we have right now. Arsenal are pretty good at it as well. It would have been interesting to see if Barcelona could have done their thing in England on a consistent basis with all the refereeing and football culture issues but we’ll never know.

      Most of the times the opponents can’t do this against Arsenal because the Gunners move the ball well and if the opponents came forward in numbers they would be exposed at the back. But when Arsenal are under pressure, especially with a lot of players in the box this tends to work well for the opponents. At that time Arsenal don’t have enough options to pass the ball as the players are all close together in the box. The other occasion it works well is when the team shape is lost. That’s where your observation of ‘not enough players close to provide support’ comes into play.

  16. amband says:

    Quote” I agree with Wenger that the players were too concerned about defending the lead.”

    I bet Wenger told them to do that. That was part of the problem

    Wenger is a fool, and it’s about time you all realized it.

    This is not a science. It’s easily understood

  17. dino says:

    i think djuru is fine hope to go !

    http://twitter.com/JohanDjourou

  18. godelo60 says:

    Arsenal board are bunch of cawords. They can put a stop to all this FA injusties. As they don’t like spending, may be they are afriad of loosing money through fine. However, they must put the health of the fans first before few change. Do something or you loose your key players and the best manager in the world of football. Just piece of advice

  19. AnonymousGun says:

    http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/van-persie-gibbs-out-of-national-squads

    Toally offtopic.. but this is the best Arsenal news I heard since that calamity match >.>

  20. Kushagra India says:

    Desi damn rite Spain suffered the same consequences against France in WC2006 and changed their style to be more possession oriented especially when protecting the lead good observation…it negates the physical superiority of the other side..

  21. Henry XIV says:

    Spain and Holland are boring to watch. Especially the former.
    Do we want Arsenal to learn how to close out games? Absolutely.
    Do we want Arsenal to play a slow and dull football à la Spain 2010? No!
    Barcelona are a good example in playing great attacking football, but also being able to shut up shop and make the opposition chase shadows.
    But do we want to become exactly like Barça?

  22. Gunner_chen says:

    One Thing I observed from that match was szczesny kept hoofing up the ball particularly to no one and it kept coming back with in no time and that was the case for goal kicks also(with no pressure from opposing players).We have good ball players in Koscielny and Squilaci(decent),we should have circulated the ball at the back to alleviate the pressure like barcelona and bayern do

    • richie says:

      Its good when down to ten to play the ball to forward player’s because that takes the pressure off.
      But you rightly observe that we didn’t have anyone up front. Chamakah would’ve been good at that point because he can hold onto a ball and then bring others in, our young inexpirenced GK kept punting the ball up and it was pinged straight back. Which didn’t help.

  23. Wrenny says:

    Thank you for another great article Desi.

    My feeling about the Newcastle game is that it was akin to a ‘perfect storm’. With us down to ten men, the tall and powerful Djourou and Diaby out of the game, and the ref’s decisions going all one way, it was a much more difficult task than some realise.

    With no Djourou, no Diaby, no Song, no Vermaelen, and no Denilson we really didn’t have the personnel that this situation called for.

    We could have done better, of that there is absolutely no doubt, and with another referee I’m sure we could have weathered the storm and hung on to the win.

    There are interesting parallels between this game and our away match at Sunderland (taking place in the same city, and the same referee). We also went down to ten men quite early, and were forced to defend deep with a quite similar team to the one we had at Newcastle. Although we capitulated in the dying moments, Squillaci and Koscielny gave strong performances and swatted away an astonishing number of balls into the box. Wilshere also struggled in that match as he often has done when consistently pressed on the ball, but the introduction of Denilson allowed us to regain a measure of control in midfield.

    I feel Denilson, had he been available on the bench, would have once again been a perfect substitution for us at Newcastle. In a match such as this his alleged weakness of ‘sideways passing’ can become a strength. His safe choices (and ability to pass with both feet) is tailor-made for a defensive passing tactic to close out a game. Denilson’s ability to win so many second balls would also have made a big difference in alleviating pressure.

  24. santori says:

    I agree that we need to have in place tactics to absorb pressure.

    Of course, let’s just say that we had mitigating circumstances against Newcastle in that Diaby was off, we were down to 10 and the backline (sans Djourou) panicked because the midfield became porous.

    I feel we should have been able to lock up the game had we :

    1) Kept a quick player (say Walcott or Gibbs) as an outlet.
    2) Played Bendtner (for AA) to add some muscle in midfield. Possibly Gibbs on too if we took off our outlet in Walcott.

    Even under normal circumstance, we should plan to be able to play in 4-4-1-1 as when necessary. I’m not suggesting we adopt a negative approach but we should lock down an alternative methodology in order to secure a lead when absolutely needed.

    The problem I feel is we no longer plan to adopt alternatives to the current system. This needs to be worked out in practise to avoid confusion during a game.

  25. santori says:

    Anybody subsrcibe to Arsenal.com? they have an interesting breakdown on what went awry against Newcastle.

    • desigunner says:

      You mean that stewart robson analysis? Is it good? I haven’t seen it yet.

      • Hong_gunner says:

        its ok. I don’t have it, but I checked it from a mate’s account who subscribed. nothing new, pretty much like zonalmarking.net, analysing the things we already know.

  26. mike in africa says:

    barca does not just pass the ball at the back to protect the lead, and have 6 or 7 guys at the back exchanging passes. barca’s always patient. even when the game is 0:0 or in the rare occasions when they’re trailing, they still do that.

    barca loves their possession game, and they play it with a rhythm. the “rhythm” being the keyword here. they let their game breathe, and restart their attacks from the back, generating waves and waves of movements and attacks all the way from the back, hitting the opposing shore.

    this is more than an in game tactical change; barca spends a a ridiculous amount of time in trainings to pass the ball out from the back, starting from the keeper, so that defenders and keepers are able to deal with pressure while keeping the ball on the ground and keeping possession.

    i can go on and on here, to ‘imitate’ barca would be stupid; but they are certainly things to take from here. in any case, i’m looking forward to the titanic clash between the two sides in the coming week.

  27. […] February I wrote this piece saying Arsenal need to develop the art of defensive possession. This display was just what I had in […]

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