Sunday, September 13, 2009
Arsenal: Can Manchester City Result Provide the Wake-Up Call?
Just when you thought Arsenal are on their way to materialize their dream, they are thumped hard on their bottom once again. In a closer encounter than the result suggests, Arsenal lost their second match of this season’s campaign.
Goals were scored by Micah Richards, Craig Bellamy, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Shaun Wright-Phillips for Manchester City, putting the match beyond doubt. A mild consolation was provided for the Gunners, in the form of two goals, by Robin Van Persie and the returning Tomas Rosicky.
Despite the surprisingly positive start of the season, this match further fuelled the doubt s that there are problems yet to be solved in Wenger’s side. What was even more worrying on the day was that the Arsenal manager allowed himself to be tactically outplayed by his counterpart.
His recently discovered 4-3-3 formation seemed worryingly ineffective. While, the reasons for that cannot be fully credited to the fine work of the opposition. It was more than obvious that Arsene would look for domination on the wings, placing the tall and imposing players, Nicklas Bendtner and Abou Diaby, there.
They are not known for their speed, and that was Wenger’s first mistake. Micah Richards outplayed the slower Diaby and neutralized him. On the left side, the Danish striker was also struggling to create chances for his team. Eduardo was left on the bench, when it was obvious that a faster player would do a lot more damage on the wings. Wenger did not see that soon enough.
Another mistake Wenger made, was when he decided to use the team’s most creative player on the right side of the midfield. Why was that needed?
Cesc Fabregas, provided with the right helping hand, can dictate the tempo of the game from midfield. So why place him on the right side and, subsequently, isolate him from the game?
He had a lot less to do there. Alex Song was preoccupied by giving a helping hand to the defence, and Denilson barely had what can be called a decent game.
The midfield looked unimaginative and dull.
Something that could not be said when Andrey Arshavin was playing. Fabregas has the quality to change that, but on that day his strength was not used by Wenger. And that was mistake number two by Wenger.
Now, while a result of 4-1 might indicate a dominating game for the winning side, it was far from that. The two sides were not that far away from each other in terms of quality.
The difference lay in defence.
The recently criticized side of Mark Hughes for their lack of defensive resources may have proved their critics wrong. The partnership at the back between ex-Gunner Kolo Toure and recent purchase Joleon Lescott looked as stable as a rock. They easily neutralized all attacks from the air. On the other side of the field, their colleagues dressed in red and white looked shakier than ever.
The impression of Thomas Vemaelen and William Gallas collaborating well, that they managed to create so far, was stripped of its substantiality after this game. They were too far apart from each other, could not communicate well, and allowed the oppositional attacking players to out jump them far too many times.
As if to not stay behind the lone man restricted by the two posts, Almunia, also had a terrible game. He could have saved half of the four goals that he conceded. The first one would not have even gone in, if it was not for diving Almunia’s back to bounce the rebounded off the post ball inside the net.
But it’s easy to be critical of the goal keeper when the defence has not been playing well. Almunia will share the responsibly of this loss with the rest of the team.
One thing was made certain: Arsenal still have a lot more work to do to materialize their dream. It’s far too early in the season to discount them from the title race, but conceding four goals cannot be called top quality too.
We are asking ourselves the question: what went wrong in Manchester? Is Wenger going to ask himself the same question and benefit from the answer?
Time will tell.