Besiktas 0 – 0 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

Arsenal returned from Turkey after a below par performance that was still enough to get an acceptable result. A win would have helped but a goalless draw is by no means a disaster.

I thought Besiktas worked very hard in this game and played close to their full potential. The pitch helped them a little as did the fact that Arsenal didn’t seem to be on the same fitness levels as the hosts (understandably so). With that in mind, it’s reasonable to expect better quality from the Gunners in the return leg and the visitors should find it tough at the Emirates.

That being said, a few very obvious and oft discussed problems were patently discernible in the Gunners’ performance. These have been covered so often that I’ll just list them in bullet point form rather than discussing the details

  • Playing Ramsey and Wilshere in central midfield makes the team output weaker.
  • Very few runs in behind the defence
  • Failure to establish midfield dominance against a team that pressed with energy and passion
  • Inability to press coherently in the opposition half
  • Inability to defend the centre line/force turnovers leading to counter-attacks form that zone
  • Not getting enough bodies in the opposition box
  • Inefficient attack with many promising moments squandered

This game can be a classic case study for what I’d said should be the first law of football – Defending is significantly easier than attacking.

Look at the amount of final third action on both sides of the pitch. Sure, we can blame Giroud, but what about Demba Ba’s missed chances? Arsenal were irrefutably inefficient, but can you then really praise Besiktas who missed just as many chance, if not more?

Decisive quality in the attacking third makes a huge difference. Neither side had it. The defensive players had a good game but also rode their luck. The percentages worked in their favour.

The game was played at a very fast pace, which worked well as far as knocking Wenger’s side out of their rhythm was concerned. The Gunners should be able to go into such games and establish control over the central third through their technical skills irrespective of the pitch conditions or fitness (relative difference was marginal). They couldn’t do it, just as they struggled in many games last season.

The difference was that this time they didn’t really sit back and defend with as much assurance as we saw last year. They also weren’t able to produce that small 5-10 minute period where they went up a couple of gears to score a goal or two. Many games were won last season on the back of such details.

In this game, it seemed to me that Arsenal were tactically unsure. They were trying to defend the centre line but weren’t really doing a great job. It was adequate most of the time but not sharp enough to result in transition opportunities.

The attacking ideas were chaotic too. At times, Sanchez was trying too much on his own down the right flank. Giroud was erratic and many moves broke down due to poor touches or choices by the Frenchman. Ramsey wasn’t getting into the areas he usually does to support the forwards. Wilshere wasn’t either. Santi has been ineffective during the first two games of the season and I have a feeling it’s linked with the unbalanced midfield. They don’t find him when they should, nor does their movement bring the best out of his passing. Arsenal’s left side was almost non-existent from an attacking perspective.

The hectic nature of the game meant that the gaps between the lines were often too big and the midfield was neither able to join the front line in any purposeful manner, nor did they protect the back five consistently.

The main positive for Arsenal is that despite all the problems the game still ended on even terms. It’s hard to imagine Wenger’s side doing worse at home so they should sneak by. Of course, Arteta’s injury and Ramsey’s suspension will make matters tough. Nevertheless, the Gunners should still be favourites to progress as long as they don’t make any serious errors to gift away goals.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: Was almost caught out straight from kick-off but he had a decent game after that. Didn’t really have to make any difficult saves but he looked confident with the things he did have to deal with. Was lucky Ba missed on the near post as he was well beaten.

Debuchy: Almost everything came down his flank and he did well. I like the fact that he’s been able to increase his involvement with play and passing accuracy numbers. Delivery and choices in the final third could have been a little better, but he was by no means the worst on that front. His high positioning did put a little more pressure on Chambers.

Chambers: Worked hard and got into the right places most of the time. Good composure and an excellent performance for his age and experience levels. But it’s important to not forget those qualifiers. Made two bad mistakes that could have led to a goal and the whole tie would be looking very different had either one or both gone in. One was obvious for the Demba Ba chance, but I also thought he was out of position and unaware of the threat when the ball was played past him early in the second half for that clear sight of goal for Sahan. Even the other Demba Ba shot came when the striker pulled away from him. Did he also miss a chance from a corner towards the end? The hype machine is in overdrive but I’d advise caution in building up expectations.

Koscielny: There was less action on his side. Wonder if Besiktas made a conscious decision to target the youngster playing next to him. Probably the player who performed closest to his potential.

Monreal: He is a better player in the attacking half than he is in the defensive one but hardly ever got forward in this game. Passing was uncharacteristically unreliable as Arsenal struggled to build anything from the left. This was at least partly related to poor movement from teammates on that side. Luckily, he didn’t have much to do defensively and practically no one-v-ones to worry about.

The defensive players did well. Some of it was down to their quality and effort while the rest was down to the opponents missing the target. As I said earlier, the percentages worked in their favour.

We’ll have to keep an eye on that gap between Debuchy and the right sided central defender. The Frenchman stays so high up that soon opponents will start targeting that zone as Besiktas almost successfully did in this game.

Arteta: Was having a steady game before his injury. Wasn’t able to set the tempo for the Gunners and did look a little troubled at times when the distances between the lines increased.

Ramsey: Towards the end of last season and earlier in preseason I’ve said that Ramsey will lose form and struggle to keep his place as a guaranteed starter if the decisive moments stop happening for him. This game was a good example of the kind of problems he can face. The point is not that he isn’t playing well or lacks quality. He just doesn’t always make the right choices, which are often the simpler ones. His sending off was harsh but it came from an unnecessary moment of trickery when a simple pass to the right was available. Playing with Wilshere also makes things tough, particularly when Alexis is also new to the system and still adapting. Hopefully, the frustrating moments won’t build up and the decisive ones won’t dry up all at the same time.

Wilshere: Just looking at him play, it’s hard to say the youngster has done much wrong. Like Ramsey, he is another who doesn’t lack quality or desire. But he does lack tactical maturity and an understanding of the details that make the team perform better. At the moment I feel both Ramsey and Cazorla are underperforming because Wilshere is not quite connecting with them as Özil did last season. His off the ball movement, choices in possession, and defensive thought are all suboptimal. One example was the horrible high pass he played back to Koscielny that eventually led to a booking for Monreal.

Cazorla: At the moment, Santi has the biggest gap between quality possessed as against output produced. It’s very hard to put a finger on the exact cause for this. He’s never been quick and you don’t expect him to run past players to make things happen so a lack of that cannot be a reason to blame him. The problem is probably more with the level of understanding with others and the dynamic of the pass-and-move game not quite working out.

Sanchez: He was simultaneously the guy who was making something happen for the Gunners and the guy who was running into cul-de-sacs and squandering promising moments by missing opportunities to combine. I’m not quite sure what Wenger has asked him to do. It seems very odd that instead of playing up against the defensive line and using his intelligent off-the-ball runs, the Chilean is playing more like a midfielder and also looking for the ball to come to his feet rather than going into space.

Flamini: Got booked for an unnecessary tackle, squared up to opponents when things got heated up after a Wilshere challenge, decent job in front of the back four where, rather strangely, he wasn’t really tested.

The midfield failed. It was their job to control the ball and territory. Everything would’ve flowed from that but it never happened. The opponents gave them very little time and the pitch wasn’t perfect, but they have to overcome such challenges for there will be many more in the course of the season.

Giroud: Poor. Touches were disappointing, finishing left a lot to be desired, let his teammates down more often than I can remember. Sometimes having a player with exceptional final third quality can bail you out when the team is otherwise having a bad day. Giroud never looked like he’d deliver. Another player who is a long was off his best. Let’s hope much of that has to do with fitness.

Wenger: Far too many age old problems still exist. There will always be a reason – Opponent played deep, pitch was bad, players were tired, etc. – but none of those qualify as a valid excuse anymore. I have said this for at least three years now – the single most important change Arsenal can make is an addition to the coaching staff. The team has to learn to press higher up the pitch more coherently, they have to be a lot more competitive and threatening when defending the centre line, and they have to find alternate attacking modes when the regular game isn’t working.


11 Responses to Besiktas 0 – 0 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. I would like to see an article from you on the best Midfield options .
    Clearly Ramsey and Wilshere are looking like the 3 Lion’s Gerrard and Lampard..

    PS: You might be hearing for the umpteenth time but here it goes again: Excellent article as always 🙂

  2. Gerry says:

    Well done for not dwelling on the much discussed points, and doing you usual good thing of individual performance tied in with the team performance. As always a great read on what was a poor day at the office. But as you say, it could have been worse, or it could have been better.

    I can’t disagree with your conclusions either. The lack of creativity and overall balance of the side is what needs to improve. Also the reluctance to change things in a proactive way on AW’s part was reminiscent of many a game last season?

    I can understand the reluctance not to take Giroud off, because whatever his faults up front, he does add defensive height.
    I am still awaiting on that Bellerin moment where he is unleashed down the right wing, which would have meant Debuchy could stay closer to the back 4. Then with Ox on for Cazorla down the left the balance might have been restored? But then, I am only an armchair tactician …

  3. Right Cross says:

    Excellent Desi,

    Absolutely agree that the lack of combination play between Ramsey, Wilshere and Cazorla in the middle and on the left is a big problem.

    Hopefully the return of Ozil and the likely forced change in having a second midfielder deep with Flamini to help him move the ball out can help steady our possession game and lead to better combination passing movements to break down the defense.
    Would like to see Sanchez playing on the shoulder of defenders more and opening up opportunities for penetration and also space for players in midfield.
    That space between Debuchy and Chambers should be carefully watched and hopefully improved.

  4. Chiedozie says:

    I am always impressed with your indepth, detailed and objective analysis. However I am suprised that you have not noticed that Carzola’s performance has been very poor since the begining of last season and has continued to get worse. Arsenal fans, including you have been blinded by his spectacular performance in his first season and have just refused to accept the truth. I expect Wenger should have observed this, but he is not ruthless enough to bench or even sell him off to create the space for another 1st team player. For me, that is the main difference between Wenger and Alex Ferguson/ morinho in the managing of players, and why trophies has eluded us for many years before the last FA Cup.

  5. Tee Söng says:

    Valid points as always. I think part of the problem is not only new players coming in and the short break between the World Cup and the league season but we’re also playing a different tactical setup. We’ve inverted the midfield triangle to one holder flanked by two box to box runners and omitted an outright central attacking midfielder, a 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1. To me it’s a welcome variation which should pay dividends down the line but of course there will be growing pains associated with this move. I think it’s a deliberate change as opposed to enforced by Özil’s absence since we have the personnel available now to play our regular 4-2-3-1 with Ramsey and Arteta reprising their deep partnership from last season and Ox, Cazorla, and Sanchez playing behind Giroud or Sanogo. It will be interesting to see how Özil is integrated back into the squad and whether he will assume a central role or go to the wing, similar to his role in Germany’s winning World Cup campaign. Similarly, how will Walcott, who’s absence last year cannot be overstated, be integrated back into the side. Will we play Theo and Alexis together on the wings and bench Cazorla? Or leave Giroud on the bench and play Cazorla, Sanchez, and Walcott across the front three? My hope is that perhaps we’ll see more of a 4-3-3 against the bigger teams and a more attacking 4-2-3-1 against less technical sides.

  6. Todd says:

    Since link up play in the middle third with our traditional triangle is not working Alexis comes back to the ball because players (great players) want the ball. I want him to play off shoulder as well, we need a speedy LF like Reus, Walcott back, and Alexis up the middle because we need team speed on the field as our best 11 so it can be built around Ozil.

    The space behind Debuchy is of primary concern. Arteta even healthy does not have the legs. Our captain should be a great squad player like Rosicky (sounds weird, but true) and even if he gets most games a deputy is necessary since both Arteta and Flamini are wrong side of 30. I laugh when people keep saying we are overloaded in midfield and do not need a DM; justifying by saying “the modern game does not have room for a claude makele and he does not exist anymore anyway” or something to that effect.

    No one with tactical nous is saying that one guy is going to do the job, only that the one guy sitting in front of the back 4 has a role like everyone else has a role, so let us discuss his role. That guy, the guy we do not have, needs to be strong on the tackle, great at intercepting, does not get dribbled around, has high pass % numbers with a deep passing array, is tactically and positionally near perfect, and covers more blades of grass than any other perhaps except the #6 (aaron ramsey) because his lateral movement sweeps the rest of the midfield and protects the back 4. Sounds important because it is, so important that as a coach I build teams around three players. The holding midfield anchor, the creative #10, and the striker. The first destroys attacks, the second is the quarterback, and the 3rd is the receiver. Interesting how Wenger in the press every now and again drops a great quote: “every team needs a quarterback and a receiver; one to pass the ball and the other to score the goal.” He never mentions the destroyer. Perhaps we two coaches just have a different tactical philosophy, but I still hope he recognizes our biggest weakness has been that we never replaced Gilberto…even when we had the #10 in Cesc and the goal scorer in RVP, Adebayor, etc.

    In short, we need to finally replace Gilberto so every attacking player has freedom to attack because against the biggest teams, as it stands the space behind Debuchy may as well be as vast as the grand canyon. Any good attacking team will victimize it. There are systems of play to overcome that, but the interesting thing is when Bergkamp talked about Wenger he essentially said he is not a man whose genius is in the system like Van Gaal is. For Van Gaal the system is everything. For Wenger he is a master at creating balance on the field. I paraphrase but that is the gyst. We lack balance.

    So many who cry out for, or against, signing a DM does not understand why we need that type of player and it comes down to the one thing we do not have that the guys ahead of us do (Chelsea, Man City, and Top Champions League fixtures): balance in the squad, BALANCE in the 11.

    This may sound like a rant, it is not. I am excited to watch The Arsenal and I think Arsene Wenger is the best coach we could have over the last 18 years. I am not a doom and gloom guy or Arsene must go shouter. The context of my meaning is simply stating how close we are; if we have the money as many think we do we must spend it. Time to be shrewd….ruthless as someone else said. The window has been successful, now make it over the moon!

    If not, I will cheer them on to top 3 and one trophy hopefully:)

    • Tee Söng says:

      I agree that to complete a squad that is truly capable of competing until the very end of the season for the biggest trophies, we need a more athletic holding midfielder. As it is now, we’ll need a little luck to be there at the end. Preaching to the choir there. But my gut feeling is that Arsene feels he’s bought his stronger, more athletic young DM in Chambers and is willing to gamble THIS season away while waiting for him to develop in the next two or three seasons. He’s always playing the long game! Barring buying a DM that’s Champions League worthy this season, tactically how do you feel we can address this issue? I feel like one solution is going to a more defensive posture in the midfield trio, replacing your outright attacking midfielder with a box to box player. Our attack will depend a little more on the counter and on the ability of the front three to dovetail and also to have the patience to wait for support. Sanchez playing off the shoulder on one flank with Özil, who has a tendency to move towards the flanks anyway, coming in from the other flank would be one option for the front three. As always, I appreciate your input.

    • desigunner says:

      I don’t disagree with many of the general points made about the role. However, I’m yet to see any objective argument that tells me why Matic, or some other so-called DM is better than Arteta. Here are some numbers compared
      http://www.squawka.com/comparison-matrix#premier_league/2013/2014/mikel_arteta/126/64/398/0/p|premier_league/2013/2014/nemanja_matic/126/64/9284/0/p|premier_league/2013/2014/fernandinho/126/64/4958/0/p|premier_league/2013/2014/steven_gerrard/126/64/70/0/p|premier_league/2013/2014/gareth_barry/126/64/546/34/p#total_passes/pass_completion/tackles_won/tackles_lost/successful_take_ons_%/interceptions/yellow_cards#90

      I’m open minded about this and perfectly willing to listen to well thought out arguments based on facts. Ideally, I’d love to have a player better than Arteta.. Let’s have Diaby’s physicality, Busquets’ technique, Makelele’s anticipation, and the winning mentality of Guardiola… The fact is, there simply aren’t enough players who will do better than Arteta is doing… Will try to do a full article on this if i get the time next month…

      • desigunner says:

        The link doesn’t work… you’ll have to copy-paste… the whole second paragraph is the link till #90.. alternatively just use the squawka comparison tool and compare Arteta with whoever you think is much better

  7. Todd says:

    On the whole we agree desigunner, now add defensive errors and he is in Steven Gerrard territory. All I am saying is in physical matchups Arteta is over run and watching the game supports the Steven Gerrard stat. Also, sample comparisons have been done by StatsBomb with possession adjustment for defensive actions and it shows his legs are going. At the very least we need a under study.

    We also agree that passing is best defense and that arteta as a converted cam excels in that regard, I coach attack and Rondo keep ball 90% of my own sessions because what you said last week is true, defending is far easier, so as a coach I train attack far more. The thing is though, when training possession and build up you teach attacking not in relation to keeping the ball alone, but in the context of when you lose it your shape should be able to get the ball back in 6 seconds. You essentially prepare the transition phase, Arsenal are caught wanting in transition phase v big teams. Not every coach carries this philosophy, I deliver very Dutch methodology. So all I would say is we either need a change in personnel because in big games with teams attacking with speed and quality in efficiency Arteta cannot keep up. even the stats prove it, but watching top 4 games prove it even more. The stats are more significant than stated I think (but the stats experts should way in here) because standard deviation we see in the comparison on errors in a low scoring game like football is significant given one error can be the reason why the team loses. Fact is players closer to goal must play close to perfect. If we don’t get someone more mobile a change in Tactics is necessary, Debuchy plays higher than sagna and just think of some attacking moves that torched us (man city, Liverpool, etc) because sagna was so high. Somethings got to give.

    Tee song, thanks. Hard to write what I would do tactically it would be even longer than what I have anyway written, well you know how I like to go on… Quick answer above is how dutch school teaches 9 Metre Rondo not because the tight space makes keeping the ball easy but because it is easier to win it back and they want to invite a technical battle in less space. You may know this is against Wenger’s sensibilities a bit in that he teaches attacking by creating verticallity first which is why some positions on the field for Arsenal have such a high starting position when looking at that. I agree Wenger is playing the long game and I actually love and agree with our sustainable financial model, so don’t take my writing as bantering and complaining. I will enjoy every minute of every game and think business since so far is great so long as Tactics are right and players develop cohesive. I am not the kind of fan that is always calling for one of the best managers in his generation to get the axe, just saying what I think needs to happen…

    Cheers boys 🙂

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