I have been reading with some interest that Arsenal need a new winger; players that will stretch play, thereby decongesting the centre and also lessen the reliance of the full backs having to bomb forward exposing the channels less.
In a previous article I stated this is an area that must be strengthened and/or improved upon. Nasri can be the winger Arsenal have been looking for but as Wenger says he needs to make more use of his dribbling and pace and get into goalscoring positions. The role of the winger is different to Arsene also as he prefers them to create chances aswell.
The problem for Arsenal it seems lies that the wingers, especially in order to play such a passing game haven’t yet developed the ability of going outside as comfortably as coming in or in the case of Walcott, the opposite. This is what Pires and Ljungberg provided and even Reyes. Eboue one can argue the only player that is the best at doing both but his quality is still questionable in such a position. He gets into good areas but doesn’t seem to make the most of it, maybe through a lack of confidence.
The best teams such as the Invincibles and dare I say it, Manchester Unted are able to reverse the contradiction of play; get closer to support and also provide width therefore having the ability to exploit space.
This is where good movement and decision making come into play but one which is harder to teach; a player will have to decide themselves whether to move wider or closer in order to be useful to the team. It has been interesting to watch Walcott and Nasri play in contrast to ‘love him or hate him’ player Alexander Hleb.
The current Arsenal two prefer to start wide when Fabregas has the ball in the centre which is fine but being the main creative force in the team it is best for the two to better survey the situation on the pitch rather than start wide. At times it would be better to start more centrally opening up gaps for others to exploit and at the same time pull defenders out of position, unsettling their marking. If one player moves out wide and others come closer it brings in unpredictability and makes it harder to mark. This is one of the key factors which made Arsenal so successful in their passing game last season and also to the Invincibles.
Such a play opens up a game and allows beter combination play. It is not necessarily only about being compact or having width; the most effective possession play requires options, having as many players as possible capable of making and exploiting spaces, the movement to support each other and create gaps. Whether to be compact or wide is not set in stone, it is being positioned to be useful relative to your position. The Invincibles were so fluid but devastating at the same time, attacking at such great speed as the options and movement was so strong.
Support is about having as many players as possible capable of making and exploiting spaces. If the opposition realises there are to be more short passes then obviously they will look to stop it by being more compact. Hopefully this will open up the space further up field to exploit, maybe a reason why Henry could get behind more frequently and Adebayor fails. Recently this option has been open to Van Persie.
Another advantage of having support, and this is where Man Utd comes into it is the ability to counter attack. Being closer can allow quicker retaining of possession and thus easier to counter quicker and arguably more often.