Norwich finally broke their winless streak and kept a rare clean sheet, all against an Arsenal side who thought three points were in the bag. In the late fixture, Arsenal attacked and kept possession throughout the game but a poacher’s goal from Grant Holt after Vito Mannone failed to keep the ball after a super save was all it needed for Arsenal to face Schalke with zero points for the second time in the last three Premier League fixtures. So what went wrong?
Let’s find out.
Arsenal went into this fixture with a 4-2-3-1 formation which suits their passing game:
Andre Santos was drafted in at left-back in place of Kieran Gibbs who was out injured. Aaron Ramsey continued in the box-to-box midfield role even when Jack Wilshere was on the bench and Francis Coquelin who could have played in front of him. Gervinho started off in the wide position where as usual, he plays poorly.
I felt neither Mertesacker and Vermaelen were marking Grant Holt like they marked Peter Crouch at the Britannia Stadium. Holt was first to the ball after Mannone managed to save the long shot beating the ever-so-slow Mertesacker and toe-poking it past Mannone. Maybe it is the hangover of the international break, but Arsenal players were generally tired and exhausted and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, who was a substitute, picked up an injury and had to be replaced after just 12 minutes on the pitch. Arsenal had 15 players on duty while Norwich had just two players, both of whom didn’t even play the game.
Arsenal, in general, don’t do well just after international duty but this wasn’t the time to lose. Now, with Tottenham ahead of Arsenal, they will be desperate to make it to the Top 4 by December. But Norwich displayed the same defensive shape Arsenal did at Anfield last month. Let’s see how.
Arsenal started off in this 4-2-3-1 formation against Liverpool, as they do generally. But when they weren’t on the ball, their formation looked like this:
Arsenal broke into the 4-4-1-1 formation against Brendan Rodger’s men when dispossessed. This cramped the Liverpool players for space and they never got a clear-cut chance. Arsene Wenger chose the best wingers for this job in Podolski and Chamberlain. Both of them track back well and help out their full-backs in defense. As Liverpool had the ball for the better part of the first half, Arsenal stuck to this formation. It wasn’t an irony that Arsenal’s first goal of the season came off a counter-attack. Steven Gerrard‘s misplaced pass went to Diaby who then passed to Podolski on the left who then passed to Cazorla and he continued with his run and got the ball back from him and smashed it past Reina. From then on, Arsenal started to loosen up a little bit and got the second goal due to Cazorla.
That was pretty much the same at Carrow Road, but with Norwich playing Arsenal and Arsenal playing Liverpool. I believe Arsenal should revert back to playing like this for all games henceforth, starting to loosen up once we have a two-goal cushion. That’s my solution to the problems we face. Play with this formation (when off the ball, of course) and Arsenal will have few problems come May 2013.
With Dani Alves pushing forward, this can easily change to a 3-5-2, but let’s keep it as it is. Now against Sunderland:
Whether he knew it or not, Walcott might have been playing at centre-forward against Sunderland. Comparing the two diagrams above, Messi and Walcott were playing at CF. There is a reason why Messi cannot be caught by anyone. Because he is so deep for a center-forward, defenders and midfielders alike will be confused as to how to mark him. This formation is effective for Walcott as he can use his pace all over the park and he can become an effective player. Gervinho can play in this position as well with his dribbling.
What is good about this formation is that it can change into a 4-2-3-1 or even a 4-4-2 with ease. This formation should be used by Wenger even though it didn’t reap any rewards against Sunderland. But tactically, Arsenal are very flexible and Arsene Wenger may hopefully use what I have mentioned above.
The Premier League is a marathon where you have to be consistent through out to achieve your goals. Whether Arsenal want to be in the Top Four or at the top, they need points and they have to start achieving it from now. So let’s hope this Norwich debacle was a one-off and cheers to Arsenal finishing this month with a bang!