Arsenal played some magnificent football last year; possibly the best in the Premiership since the Invincibles captured the title playing in a style so explosive yet beautiful on the eye. The Gunners are yet to even get close to either style this season, with Manchester United the most attractive footballing side.
Arsenal haven’t been helped by injuries most notably to Rosicky and a consistently unsettled starting line up. There was a small patch in the game against Wigan where the Gunners showed the potential there is but alas it never materialised , ultimately ended with the withdrawal of Samir Nasri through injury. The Frenchman so crucial to the success of the style of play, as the player was signed to replace Hleb and emulate Robert Pires. Still yet to fully adjust to the Premier League and even to his own game.
“When he is in front of goal he can finish with his right foot or left foot. He has a lot of pace and power and I encourage him to go in the final third. He was a more typical playmaker in France who gave the ball and took it back. I believe that with his pace he can penetrate in the final third and he will score plenty of goals. That is what he did today because he is a tremendous finisher.” Wenger after the 2-1 over Man Utd
It seems Arsene is trying to create a similar footballing team to the Invincibles but go one better with more all rounded and high stamina players. Perhaps the Carling Cup team is an example of his vision with Merida and Wilshere typical Arsenal wingers who can create chances, keeping possession with clever movement but are flexible and can interchange with ease.
“I like to have one behind the striker, and one or two on the flanks who come inside. I always feel that if you have players who can deliver the decisive ball in all areas of the pitch, you have many more chances of being creative. If it’s only focused on one central part, where it’s usually more concentrated, you have more space on the flanks to create. You always build a team to adapt the position that suit players best.”
Dynamism and explosiveness seems to be lacking and since the Ljungberg and Pires left Arsene has yet to replace the two with his typical creative wingers but ones who are equally adept at going on the outside as well as inside. Reyes fell dramatically from grace, Hleb leaving for Barcelona with Rosicky injured and Nasri still to improve.
Variety is looked to be added with Adebayor leading the attack with his aerial presence but his ability on the deck allows Arsenal to retain the passing game while Van Persie drops deeper as the support striker.
Creativity has took a backward step from last season with Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie the main creators. Denilson, Song and Diaby battle for the remaining central position where it seems Wenger is trying to add more finesse to the centre along with that shield that is needed.
Man Utd closer to Invincibles style than Arsenal
At the moment Manchester United have taken over Arsenal as the most attractive footballing side and there are similarities with the counter attacking explosiveness and the ability to attack from all angles, though you might argue the ground football is not as strong. Berbatov is as close you can get to a modern Bergkamp, Ronaldo and Park with the dynamism on the flanks while Rooney is the talisman akin to Henry though lacking the goalscoring threat. Evra and Rafael adding real pace and directness in the full back position with Scholes and Carrick allowing the attacking players to express themselves similar to the role of Gilberto and Vieira.
The lack of quality and creative wingers looks to have impacted most on the teams ability to play the passing football so synonymous with the club under Wenger. Hleb’s ability to retain possession so expertly and assist the assister so important to Fabregas and the balance of the team. Rosicky will be back in March from which the title may have already been decided and Walcott has imporved immensly though when to stay outside or more central needs work. It seems that the two positions where there may need strengthening or improvement most the second central midfield position and a winger.
Arsenal Invincibles 2-1 Leicester: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole, Ljungberg (Keown 87), Silva, Vieira, Pires (Edu 70), Bergkamp (Reyes 82), Henry.
Subs Not Used: Parlour, Stack.
Arsenal 2007-2008 v Fulham 2-1: Lehmann, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Eboue (Walcott 62), Fabregas, Flamini, Rosicky (Bendtner 72), Hleb, Van Persie (Song Billong 90).
Subs Not Used: Almunia, Senderos.
Arsenal 2008-09 v WBA 1-0: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy, Walcott (Toure 72), Denilson, Nasri, Eboue, Adebayor, Bendtner (Van Persie 69).
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Vela, Ramsey, Wilshere, Randall.