No more Crab football and back to the future of Wengerball
September 9 2013
In the first two games in 2012-13 against Sunderland and Stoke City, Arsenal struggled against English team packing the box and refused to venture out of their half. We attacked them with a very predictable Crab Football style that passes the ball to death around the box that even truck-loads of Viagra will not help in penetrating the defence.
The opposition’s tactics were simple:
“Let Arsenal having possession of the ball all the time. Dig in on our own half of the field, intercept the ball, perform a lightning-fast transition from defence to attack by playing a long ball to our tall and strong forwards.”
And on August 17, 2013, Aston Villa did exactly that. Agbonlohar ran through our defence and won two dodgy penalties. The third was scored against Arsenal playing high-up on the pitch, leaving acres of space behind, a typical error for “kick and rush” teams to counter attack successfully against a un-coordinated Arsenal defensive unit.
The Lesson was learnt; to Tiny Totts’ sorrow on Sep 1, 2013 when Arsene Wenger “Roped Da Dope”.
Arsene Wenger packed the box and was savvy enough to perceive that AvB believed his team was superior to Arsenal and would win by playing attacking football with pacy wingers and wing backs. Arsene Wenger had learnt a valuable lesson in the Aug-17 loss.
Wenger decided to play “Anti-Football” by defending in our half and inviting Tiny Totts to attack us. It emulated Denmark in Euro 1992 where they deliberately gives opponents a lot of space. Denmark deliberately gave full backs space to do the build-up from the back – (like we gave Rose and Walker) – and then counterattacked.
When Spurs lost possession,they left oceans of space on the outside behind the defence and Arsenal took advantage of this with their counterattack. And Totts’ problem was compounded as their newly-bought midfielders and defenders lacked the basic understanding to defend as a unit to play attacking Football, hence exposing their flanks and centre to quick counterattacks.
After playing one season together with the same unit, Arsenal have the basic cohesion to perform a quick transition from defending to launching a lightning-fast counter-attack before Spuds had time to reorganize the defence.
For the past few seasons, Arsenal players have held onto the ball for too long, passed too predictably and been easily anticipated by defenders. Invariably, frustrated Arsenal players tend to dribble through a wall of defenders or desperately tried to thread a through-ball with 2 or 3 defenders in front of them to make things “happened”.
This was compounded by too many disloyal and mercenarily senior players leaving Arsenal. Players did not develop a tactical cohesiveness, especially raw and young players who are too slow to recognize the continual changing tactical situation on the pitch, constantly involved in positional plays and anticipate whatever possibilities may develop. They simply executed too many stray passes by failing to anticipate and track the runs of their team-mates while in an open position.
During 2012-13, Arsene Wenger realised that without Van Persie, Arsenal players lacked confidence in each other and therefore in the team. Without Van Persie, they felt the team lacked that little bit extra, even with new “unknown” players in Giroud, Podolski and Cazorla.
March 2, 2013 Arsenal lost 2-1 at Tottenham with their Top-4 status appearing to be in tatters. Per Mertesacker gathered the players in the dressing room and gave the team a good talking to. The players started to communicate with each other, and in the process, the Wenger’s “3rd Arsenal Team” came together as a solid team out of eleven individual first-rate players. A new-found team spirit developed which is essential to inculcate tranquillity, camaraderie and unity within the team; the starting point to build the foundation for the team’s tactical development.
In WengerBall, when the ball is lost, eleven players participate during defence, and eleven players participate during the build-up and attack. The demand of WengerBall is to turn the ball over as few times as possible during the build-up. Players must not hang on to the ball too long, that is, use the ball efficiently and not too “artistic or showboating” in executing too many Hollywood passes. “Efficient” means by having a lightning fast transition from one team function (defence, midfield and attack) to the next one, from slow to quick or vice versa.
Arsene Wenger knew the other important aspect of the team building process is the psychological foundation of having a group of committed and home-grown players – Brit Pack – hungry for success and determine to succeed. Arsene Wenger demanded his players to play to convince him to stay on; and show the hunger for success of this group of players will drive them on to make that dream come true and win the first trophy since 2005. Perhaps even coming 2nd in the League is like “winning a trophy”!
The cardinal rules for playing WengerBall are:
“You must never play 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 without quick defenders who excel in 1-on-1 duels and who are exceptional in the positional play to dominate large spaces.”
The pace and quickness of Koscielny or Sagna (perhaps Vermaelen as well when he recovered his match sharpness and form) in partnership with Mertesacker’s organisation ability in Back-4 means Arsene Wenger had finally resolved his defensive problems. Mertesacker’s leadership quality with Back-4 was what was lacking in previous seasons.
“An excellent sweeper is needed to play defensively behind the Back-4 and offensively in front of the Back-4.”
The sweeper plays a key role in distributing short and long passes. He is the first playmaker. Arteta and Flamini is an interim measure to allow Ramsey, Wilshere and Diaby to develop into this role. Arsene Wenger or the next manager still retains the option to buy a sweeper in 2014 if both Ramsey and Wilshere fail to develop as planned.
“When in possession, attackers are not allowed to play too close together in the centre of attack and they had to be able to receive the ball in the space on the flanks.”
This season, we constantly combine passes in a high tempo, with Arsenal players seldom holding onto the ball for too long, always looking for quick-fire passes, and quick one-twos to beat a packed defence. It is no wonder that Wenger values a healthy Tomas Rosicky so highly as his darting runs forward, his quick fire-passes and running off-the-ball that effectively lead a young MIDFIELD to play at a high tempo instead of leisurely passing the ball around the box to death for the past few seasons.
The transition from defending to attacking and vice versa takes place much quicker with accurate and perfectly weighted passes out of defence. His effervescence presence and tactical nous helps to develop youngsters like Ramsey and Wilshere. And Rosicky is the reason why this season that our young midfielders play with purpose and directness at a high tempo. And Walcott had matured into that deadly right-forward that Wenger wanted. We have plenty of movements down both flanks in Gibbs-Monreal, Sagna-Jenkinson, Walcott, OX, Poldolski, Cazorla and youngsters like Gnabry, Eisfield and maybe Ryo.
But we still lack a “can opener” against teams that will pack the box against a superior Arsenal side. And so the club has bought Mesut Ozil. Is he the ideal playmaker that Arsene Wenger craves?
Has Ozil the attributes required to make the following happen:
A “can opener” with the speed of thought that spots an opening much faster than defenders can close down the passing channel. Certainly, Ozil’s technical and tactical qualities can superbly set off our pacy midfielders like Walcott, Cazorla, Poldolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry, Ryo, Eisifeld, et al, running down the flanks, between defenders or blindside running behind defenders. Not forgetting Giroud’s knack of pulling away from defenders and then suddenly cut in front of them to latch onto a pass from the flanks.
Ozil is an experienced player who can better anticipate the game situations, can increase the tempo playing one-touch combinations with superb positional play. He can also dictate the speed of the game, e.g. one-touch to speed-up, but also deliberately slowing down the speed of the game to give teammates time to get in the correct position.
We meet Sunderland and Stoke City in succession again like in 2012-13. These two matches is the barometer to show how far this rebuilt 3rd Team progresses since August 18, 2012. Will WengerBall be vindicated with two wins with Ozil as the “can opener”?
“I have a Dream.”
This Eternal Optimist prefers the symmetry of 2007-08 where we led the table by 5 points in February 2008. Can we do that by March 2, 2014; a complete turnaround after WHL 2-1 loss a year ago?
If you are loking for a 'can opener' as you rather cleverly put it, then Ozil is the ultimate 'can opener'. If you watch his videos on you tube some of his one touch passing into the box is absolutely ridiculous. He's not even looking half the time.
My main worry isnt that we wont be able to open the can, its that we dont have anyone very good at spreading the food onto the plate.
In a frank and candid interview with the Official Arsenal website, Arsene Wenger today spoke of a bright future for his Gunners side. As well as hinting that further marquee signings of the ilk of Mesut Ozil were possible, Wenger also outlined his vision of a side with a core of Arsenal bred youngsters. Reminding fans that the effect of the club’s stronger financial position is twofold, he placed as much emphasis on the club’s ability to keep hold of their young players as he did on new marquee signings.
Speaking about the club’s future plans Wenger said; “The culture of the Club, the way we want to play football and the way we want to behave, comes from within. The Wilsheres, the Ramseys, the Gibbs – these kind of players have to be the culture of the Club. Then on top of that we want to bring world-class players who will help us to be even stronger.”
Wenger continued the mantra of evolution rather than revolution, by pointing to the example of Aaron Ramsey’s recent breakthrough. “You realise football is not just about adding more players together. You have to give them a chance to play, you have to give a chance to players like Ramsey and Chamberlain at some point. One year ago, people were questioning Ramsey. But why is he where he is today? Because we kept faith in him and gave him a chance, so you have to find the right balance between developing players and adding more quality.”
The club is now sat on a firmer financial footing, following a tightening of the budget whilst the club built and financed their new home at the Emirates Stadium. This period of prudence saw many youngsters develop at Arsenal before leaving for pastures new – a trend Wenger now believes he can stop.
“In recent years we have lost players who we have educated, who we have formed, and we lost them when they became competitive. It was important that we turned that round and showed we are ambitious.
I always want to bring the best players in here, world-class players, at the best possible price. And I want to continue to educate 60 to 80 per cent of the squad ourselves.”
Wenger’s side are currently top of the Premier League. Having ended last season well, the Gunners are the form side of 2013, and brimming with confidence. The signing of Mesut Ozil has only added to the confidence around North London, and Wenger hinted that the signing had an element of a club making a statement of intent.
“We have shown great consistency lately, but this signing [Ozil] will reaffirm the ambition of our players and of our fans. It will improve the confidence of everyone involved with Arsenal.”
In a nutshell, Arsene Wenger's Dream of building a 3rd Arsenal Team based on Rinus Michels' "Ajax Model of team building" may come true this season:
"... I always want to bring the best players in here, world-class players, at the best possible price. And I want to continue to educate 60 to 80 per cent of the squad ourselves.”
Any great sides that wish to dominate for a decade or more and transformed into a marquee club like ManU, Real, Barca, Bayern Munich or Milan must build from within like Liverpool 1980s, ManU 1990s and Barcelona 2000s.
We are seeing "green shoots" of a budding great Arsenal FC sides and lets' hope we fans will reap a bountiful harvest by 2014/15.
As the Good Book says:
"Seven years of famine, and then seven years of feast".
Clearly, the astonishing development of Ramsey complements the initial drive and impetus that Rosicky had transformed this team.
And the signing of just one marquee player in Ozil is just that catalyst to this bunch of 2012/13 underperformers to play beyond the limits that set on themselves.
"Eric Cantona" Factor.
Is Ozil's signing that are now transforming Ramsey and Wilshere to fulfil their potential that Wenger saw in them?
Not forgetting that "water carrier and hauler of wood" in Flamini that is quietly providing a solid foundation for those artistes to express themselves fully in opponent half without the fear of a vulnerable defence behind them.
Really, getting rid of deadwoods and disgruntled and disenchanted players in Kolo, Clichy, Fabregas, Eboue, Nasri, Van Persie, Santos, Denilson, Song, Chamakh, et al had knitted this bunch of Wenger Wunderkind into a unit; all thanks to the German Spine plus the maturing of the Wenger Wunderkind.
More to come when Theo, Poldo and OX regain their match fitness and sharpness by January 2014?
Plus more marquee player(s) joining us in January 2014.
Barring from that blip at OT (again),let's hope they will fulfil my other prediction - remain unbeaten for the whole of 2013.
Have faith people and remember how we cursed the TEAM and Wenger after Aug-17?
It is just a blip and I will rather look upon it as one point gained rather than 2 points lost. remember, that was how we lost at OT.
Let February 2014 be the gauge as I am confident with this new-found unity and commitment in the TEAM, we will remain unbeaten in December 2013.
And a Master of Psychology like Arsene Wenger will take this opportunity to sign that 3-year extension to boost the morale of the TEAM ... remaining them he has every confidence in them to fulfil his DREAM of a title-winning rebuilt 3rd team.
Everton match proved one point without doubt.
Teams can dominate midfield with their power plays and controlled of midfield by Barkley-Barry. But they can't penetrate our solid defensive line with clear scoring chance.
If not for that miscued overhead kick by Lukaku, we would have won 1-0. Karma, we have our share of good fortunes like a certain Polish goalie
BTW how many teams can keep Lukaku quiet like Mertesacker-Koscielny, plus those "intelligent fouls" committed by Arteta to start Everton quick counter-attacking?
Cheer up people, we still can win the 2013/14 title.
SIGN THAT 3-YEAR EXTENSION BEFORE THIS WEEKEND LE PROFESSEUR!
"A club is a union between players, supporters and directors". - Wenger.
Arsene wenger has done an absolutely masterful job within the constraints he has... Every single year, he has outperformed our spending every single year he has been manager. It is extraordinary. -Gazides.
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